It has become a very frequent phenomenon – a country declares that natural resources such as gas or oil have been discovered in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Almost immediately neighbouring countries or other parties claim that they own some of these resources.
The loose interpretation of EEZs has created a growing market for protecting a country’s natural resources – and unmanned air systems (UAS) are big players.
Israel is a leading manufacturer of UAS, and in recent years the country gained a natural test area for systems which could help protect natural resources.
Huge gas reservoirs have been discovered off Israel, and the threats came even before the gas began to flow.
So, Israel has to protect these resources – and UAS are playing a major role. This task has been the responsibility of the Israeli defence forces (IDF). However, the Israeli navy is always last in line for procurement budgets, and so the mission is currently mostly based on UAS and manned maritime patrol aircraft. The navy is called in when something suspicious is located.
UAS have an advantage when the task is to fly for long hours over a certain span of ocean. Endurance and good sensors for maritime applications is the name of the game.
But demand for the protection of EEZs is international, and this has encouraged companies to join forces.
A good example is the agreement signed earlier this year between Israeli UAS manufacturer Elbit Systems and Windward – an international company founded by Israelis.
The two companies teamed up to offer integrated maritime solutions for the Indian authorities. The joint solution combines Windward’s innovative satellite-based maritime analytics system, MarInt, with Elbit Systems’ range of solutions for maritime domain awareness, including Hermes 900 maritime patrol UAS.
The co-operation between the two companies addresses the specific needs of India and its vast and complex maritime arena.
The venture offers a system adapted for very large maritime area monitoring, providing authorities with a means to control India’s waters.
MarInt – Windward’s proprietary satellite-based maritime analytics system – maps maritime activity in unprecedented detail, based on data collected from various sources such as commercial satellites, open-source databases and other sensors.
Covering any area of interest, regardless of the distance from shore, MarInt delivers maritime domain awareness over littoral or blue water areas for EEZ monitoring, fishery control, regional traffic analysis or port traffic management.
After routine maritime patterns are observed and learned, the system performs deep behaviour analysis on every vessel spotted in the designated area of interest, in order to detect anomalous and suspicious behaviour.
Elbit, meanwhile, is offering a maritime version of its Hermes 900 UAS. The platform carries a payload of up to 350kg, including maritime surveillance radar, an automatic identification system, an electro-optical multi-sensor payload and electronic surveillance systems.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has also identified the EEZ bonanza, and is offering its Heron-1 UAS in a maritime configuration.
When there are a number of EEZ definitions – and all very vague – it is no wonder that they cause tension between countries.
When this tension involves many billions of dollars-worth of natural resources, nations are willing to heavily invest to protect them.