Wednesday, November 23, 2016

News: World first for Martek as it lands £8.5m drone contract

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Innovative Rotherham company, Martek Marine, has won a €10m (£8.58m) framework contract with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to monitor pollution in Europe's waters.

Based at Manvers, Martek is one of the world leaders in the supply of safety and environmental monitoring systems for the shipping industry. It has expanded into different areas including the medical sector, supplying defibrillators to airlines and leisure and sport venues.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are becoming incredibly useful tools for marine and offshore companies with Martek supplying marine-specific drones that are developed to fly inside confined spaces and outdoors, making them ideal for safety inspections on tanks as well as offshore structures such as wind turbines and flare stacks.

The latest contract will see the Martek Drones division send its 2-metre long drones up to 50km offshore to measure the sulphur and CO2 levels emitted from the exhausts of commercial ships. Development is also underway to incorporate satellite command and control and payload data streaming, so the the drones can operate in what is known as BRLOS (beyond radio line of sight) over 100 km away.

Paul Luen, CEO and owner of the Martek Group (pictured below, right), said: "The drone we are using is unique in the world. To carry out this work so far offshore it has to be able to fly for up to six hours and carry a payload of up to 10kg. It will also have to withstand all weathers, including gale-force winds and heavy rain. It's effectively a mini-helicopter.

"We've invested a lot of money in drone technology over the past three years and we're very ambitious. We literally believe we can "change the world" using drone applications. We will announce a number of world firsts in the next three years."

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At sea, the call to deploy these drones could be made from any EU nation at any time. EMSA will then relay the request to Martek, which will send two drones and a crew to monitor the seas for a minimum of 60 days in each location. The land-based team will manoeuvre the drone close to ship exhaust stacks and use a gas analyser to measure the SO2, NO2 and CO2 ratios in the surrounding atmosphere. The drones are equipped with both visible light and infra-red (thermal imaging) cameras, as well as various other sensors.

The data they gather will be sent back to shipping authorities in real time so they can evaluate if ship owners are falling foul of EU legislation on sulphur levels in their fuel, which causes acid rain and damages health. A 2008 report from the University of California suggested that sulphates from shipping could be responsible for 60,000 deaths a year.

The company spotted a gap in the market for commercial drones which could be used in a variety of sectors and industries throughout the world, including marine and emergency services. Establishing a new division called Coptrz, Martek Marine has already landed contracts with fire services, police authorities, universities and owners of wind turbines. Talks are ongoing with the Home Office about their deployment of drones.
Luen added: "Drones are a disruptive technology with the capacity to change industries. One example is inspecting wind turbines. Currently, it's done by guys climbing up on ropes, but it's time-consuming, costly and dangerous, especially when they're offshore. Drones have the potential to disrupt the whole process."

The Martek Marine group is one of Rotherham's business growth success stories. Founders Paul Luen, Mike Pringle and Steve Coulson had just £6,000 of initial investment in 2000 when it began trading from the smallest unit in RiDO's Century Business Centre at Manvers. Just 16 years later, the company has sold £80m worth of equipment and employs 60 staff serving 80 countries.

Martek Marine website

Images: Martek


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