One of the most significant problems of our time is piracy on the high seas, which generates an annual financial loss of €12 billion, measured in both economic losses and human lives.
The problem is compounded by a number of problems, first and foremost the length of the attacking vessels, which is usually only a few metres, making them difficult to detect on most radar and satellite images. At the same time, the problem is compounded by the lack of a general regulation requiring vessels above a certain size to carry an identification mark, and by the presence of small vessels and boats similar to the attackers in most vulnerable waters.
Scientific research has shown that one of the most important factors in successful defence is the timely detection of attackers, and that on the general international shipping routes, where there is no active military presence, if a ship sends a distress signal, help only takes 30 minutes to arrive.
Furthermore, many ships are already equipped with various anti-piracy protection mechanisms such as water cannons, launchable nets, or various sound and light weapons. But all of them require the timely detection of a threat, whether it's a distress call or preparation for an encounter.
Our solution is a system that can use artificial intelligence to evaluate satellite data from various sources and signal when a potential threat penetrates within X kilometres of the vessel to be protected.
On the basis of preliminary calculations, and taking into account the parameters of the ships to be protected and the attacking ships, we decided on a 50-kilometre signalling distance. That is, if the ship to be defended is entered within a radius of 50 kilometres, it is possible to predict the path of the incoming ship, the location and time of the rendezvous point, and, from the size and movement of the ship, whether it has an identification of its type (if its size requires it to have one).
To operate the system, images taken by the Copernicus family of satellites using SAR (Synthetic-aperture radar) technology are processed, augmented with images from the private company Capella Space based on the same technology.
In this way, an image of a given area is obtained with a resolution of 0.2 metres every 10 minutes, according to the company. This means that, over a 50-kilometre radius, it is possible to request and analyse images several times and, thanks to SAR technology, weather conditions are not an issue, as the technique can see through cloud cover.
Furthermore, we could rely on images from observation balloons as a source of imagery, which would provide continuous real-time images in the most dangerous areas, allowing for decision making based on movement and behavioural analysis.
Our team is made up of 4 enthusiastic people, all four of us are involved in space exploration and space technology. 3 of us are students of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics with a Master's degree in aerospace engineering, and the fourth person is a UniSpace student, otherwise a medical graduate. Furthermore, one of us has a degree in European Entrepreneurship. At the same time, we know we have a huge task ahead of us, but we are determined and brave, and with the right background, we will try to make the most of the opportunities available.