Objectives of the service
The intended service addresses a wide variety of applications which are all in the domain of real-time airborne observations or critical situation management such as flood monitoring, fire management, maritime pollution monitoring, pipeline monitoring, etc…. The service delivers an end-to-end solution where the customer receives real time imagery and near-real time image derived products (e.g. maps) at his/her office desk. Furthermore, an interactive channel allows the customer to directly communicate with the service operator and make specific imaging requests in real time.
The service uses light-weight medium sized RPAS that can operate beyond line of sight for command and control.
The customer is offered a fully integrated service eliminating the need for additional investments and this at cost lower than solutions currently offered on the market.
Users and their needs
The end users involved in the LUMEN project are:
- The Belgian Federal Ministry of Environment, Division of Marine Environment Service (http://health.belgium.be/eportal/Environment/MarineEnvironment/index.htm)
- The Flemish administrations responsible for the waterways in the Flemish region:
- Waterbouwkundig Laboratorium – Hydrologisch Informatie Centrum (http://www.watlab.be/nl)
- Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij (http://www.vmm.be/)
A first assessment with the users revealed the following needs:
Maritime use case:
- Real time information is not available at the user’s desk, they need to go to an operations centre
- Operation costs of the current used systems are considerable. A more cost effective platform would allow to increase the number of routine surveys
- A system with a smaller ecological footprint is preferred, especially in monitoring the marine environmental policy.
- Surveillance flights pose a certain risk to the people involved, an RPAS could decrease those risks considerably.
- A less detectable platform compared to the current conventional platform is preferred.
Flood monitoring case:
- A faster delivery of the images/information is required.
- Due to the large extend of the floods, a platform with a sufficient endurance is an asset.
- A system involving less operational risk to the people is desired.
Service/ system concept
The implemented LUMEN service consists of:
- A space segment composed of
- GPS positioning of the aircraft
- a broad band satellite data-link infrastructure
- An air segment with
- two types of aircraft (RPA)
- two types of payload
- A ground segment that consists of
- a Local Ground Station (LGS)
- a Central Ground Station (CGS)
In the LUMEN project we demonstrate two 2 specific use cases: flood extend mapping and maritime coastal monitoring. The space segment and the ground segment are common for both use cases while the air segment is specific for each use case.
The air segment used for the maritime coastal monitoring is a Cryowing Explorer equipped with an HD RGB video camera and an uncooled thermal imager mounted in a gimbal system. The system has an endurance of 10 hours at 100 km/h.
For the flood extend mapping a Cryowing Scout equipped with an RGB camera and a thermal imager is used. This system has an endurance of 2 hours at 70 km/h.
Space Added Value
Following space assets are exploited by LUMEN:
- Use of GNSS data
- allows for RPA navigation and mandatory for BLOS operations
- mandatory for geo-referencing of the payload data
- Broadband satellite communication:
- allows transferring of payload data from the GCS to service provider processing centre in near-real time
- allows for voice/chat communication between the Pilot in Control and the end user
- High resolution satellite data can be used to improve the rapid geolocation of the images acquired with the RPAS system using common ground control points
A successful demonstration was held in October 2018.
The demonstration flights of LUMEN demonstrated the maturity of the RPAS platforms to be used in an operational service. Especially the maritime surveillance use case was very successful, demonstrating the ability to fly and operate in real, suboptimal conditions.
In preparing and executing the flights the NORUT/VITO team demonstrated the operational availability, reliability and flexibility of LUMEN RPAS with
- minimal need for access to infrastructure (airfields, IT, etc.)
- operational flexibility in terms of mobilization time and possibility of re-tasking during flight (change route, altitude, flight zone).
- availability and accessibility of the near-real time data streaming service