An Ethics by Design approach to border security

Security risks and threats in the maritime domain are becoming increasingly more complex, with significant increases in irregular migration flows, human trafficking, smuggling and other illegal activities. Surveillance technologies can help tackle these issues, but their impact on society in areas such as migration, asylum, and border management needs to be anticipated and addressed from the technology’s infancy.

It is vital that researchers support technology developers and public authorities in their efforts to map, analyse, mitigate and monitor ethical issues that may arise from the use of border management technology. These include, for example, challenges raised by the usage of Satellites, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones), Radar, CCTV, Infrared Cameras, Smart Cameras, etc.

The EU- funded EURMARS project is developing a platform for maritime surveillance to improve the efficiency of border security. Our research in the project showcased how taking an Ethics by Design approach from the first stages of the technology development can ensure that it is developed in an ethical way, placing human rights and civil society protection at the forefront, while boosting its efficiency and applicability to meet our end-users’ needs.

To support project partners in developing the EURMARS platform in alignment with EU guidelines and best practices, we developed an Ethics Risk Assessment Tool. The tool’s main function is to identify potential risks, monitor ethics, and recommend appropriate mitigation measures.

EURMARS 2nd Living Labs Workshop

With the successful conclusion of our Living Labs workshop, we consider opportune to reflect on the progress and collaboration achieved over the past few days. Held between April 15th and April 19th in Varna, Bulgaria, the Living Labs workshop provided an ideal setting for immersive collaboration and experimentation. From setting up the required infrastructure to conducting valuable exercises based on the established use cases, the whole process has demonstrated our commitment to advancing border management and surveillance through innovation and teamwork.

Here’s a summary of the key highlights from our workshop:

  • We kicked off the workshop with the equipment setup and integration of all components of the EURMARS platform. This crucial groundwork laid the foundation for the days ahead, ensuring that we were ready to deliver the planned testing scenarios.
  • With our Living Labs fully operational, we engaged in a series of exercises focused on real-time vessel activity. Leveraging a multi-sensor approach, including vessel tracking data, ground-based cameras, UAV cameras, and high-resolution satellite imagery, we collected comprehensive data to enhance border management through the EURMARS digital platform.

Throughout the workshop, collaboration among our consortium partners has been at the heart of our success. This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the valuable contributions and collaborative spirit of our whole team. A heartfelt thank you goes out to all the partners of the EURMARS Consortium for their invaluable participation and unwavering support, which has been instrumental in the success of the Living Labs workshop.

The culmination of this workshop signifies a significant milestone, empowering the EURMARS digital platform with the capability to analyse and visualise data for available sensors, and demonstrating enhanced situation awareness and efficiency in identifying events of interest. Stay tuned for further updates as we persist in harnessing technology and collaboration to elevate standards across the border management domain.

Revolutionizing Maritime Security: EURMARS Project’s Cutting-Edge Coastal Surveillance System

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In response to the escalating challenges in maritime security within the European Union, the EURMARS project emerges as a groundbreaking initiative aimed at tackling complex threats such as human trafficking, and illegal activities like drug and arms trafficking. One of the components of the product/service to be offered by this visionary project, is the development of the Coastal Ground and Low Altitude Sensing Systems, a critical component in revolutionizing border surveillance, entrusted to SKYLD LTD an innovative Cypriot company.

Unraveling the Complexity of Maritime Security

The maritime domain faces an ever-evolving landscape of threats, necessitating a coordinated and technologically advanced approach. The EURMARS project aims to foster collaboration among national, regional, and EU-level authorities to enhance situational awareness and operational efficiency. The focus is on developing a secure multitasking surveillance platform that integrates high-altitude technology, satellite imagery, Uninhabited Vehicles (UxVs), and ground-based sensors for comprehensive border surveillance.

Skyld Ltd’s Contribution: Coastal Ground and Low Altitude Sensing Systems

This module is designed to generate reliable geo-referenced detections and tracking of ships, small vessels, persons, and vehicles in real-time under challenging maritime conditions. The UAV Platform utilizes airborne camera systems triggered by abnormal events detected by other sensors, verifying and confirming events during patrols.

Technical Specifications Unveiled

The intricate design of the Coastal Ground and Low Altitude Sensing Systems is a testament to Skyld Ltd’s commitment to innovation. The system incorporates:

  • Camera Sub-Systems: Combining shortwave IR, UV, thermal, and RGB cameras with ROS2 software libraries for live/raw image processing.
  • Vessel/Vehicle Classification Sub-System: Employs PyTorch for offline training on representative datasets, ensuring real-time classification using GPU technology.
  • Behaviour Analysis/Anomaly Detection Sub-System: Developed in Python, leveraging MQTT message broker for seamless integration with other components.

Conclusion: A Paradigm Shift in Maritime Security

The EURMARS project, stands at the forefront of a paradigm shift in maritime security. The integration of cutting-edge technologies, AI-based systems, and collaborative frameworks signals a commitment to fortifying the EU’s borders against emerging threats. As the Coastal Ground and Low Altitude Sensing Systems take shape, the consortium moves closer to realizing a future where comprehensive surveillance ensures the safety and security of European waters. The visionary approach of EURMARS, is set to redefine the standards of maritime security in the years to come.

EURMARS Project participated at CERIS Workshop on Innovation for Maritime Situational Awareness and Security

On the 19th of February, the EURMARS project was showcased at the CERIS Workshop on Innovation for Maritime Situational Awareness and Security. The workshop provided a comprehensive overview of European research and innovative solutions, discussing further capability needs relevant for maritime border surveillance, search and rescue at sea, and maritime safety and security. Close to 15 European research projects presented their novel technological solutions to practitioners, policymakers, and fellow innovators alongside EURMARS.

This thematic CERIS Workshop aimed to present and discuss European research and innovative solutions, as well as further capability needs relevant to maritime situational awareness and security. The interested audience included practitioners, especially Coast Guards, as well as innovators and policymakers interested in capabilities such as search-and-rescue at sea, sea border surveillance, and other maritime security and safety functions.

The Workshop brought together updates on EU-funded projects featuring innovative European technologies in the field, from autonomous platforms to data fusion; presented experiences and opportunities for cooperative and integrated information management; and discussed how research results could be more efficiently exploited.

EURMARS 2nd Plenary Meeting

The EURMARS Project’s second plenary meeting took place in Cyprus on October 12 and 13, 2023, offering a valuable occasion for consortium members to meet in person and examine the developments achieved since the last plenary session. Throughout the two-day meeting, an in-depth review of progress within each Work Package and the associated milestones was undertaken.

Participants offered detailed insights into the tasks they lead and the performed and planned activities for each of the tasks.

EURMARS – A Multimodal Fusion Architecture for Sensor Applications (MuFASA)

The overall vision of the project is to develop a platform that will improve sensing capabilities for wider areas by integrating high altitude technology, satellite imagery and UxVs in addition to ground sensor platforms in order to prevent, detect and react to crime, including that crossing external borders, illegal border crossings and/or smuggling at the border regions of the EU and of the Schengen area. With this challenge a wide arsenal of sensors and external data sources is needed to withstand the complexity of the use-cases. Thus, a sophisticated data fusion approach within a modular architecture is essential.

In EURMARS data fusion has a central role in combing homogeneous and heterogenous data with the goal to improve the overall confidence in detecting  use-case specific events. In particular, the data fusion capabilities involve the alignment of the different data delivered by the individual sensors and systems to gain additional information which can not be obtained by individual systems alone. The goal is to decrease false alarms by combining different data sources as well as increase measurement precision to metadata interpretation.

To achieve this goal, different individual data fusion modules are being developed or further improved within EURMARS. Some of them already have shown great promise in previous projects (e.g FOLDOUT), such as  the MuFASA (Multimodal Fusion Architecture for Sensor Applications) developed by AIT.

MuFASA addresses various disciplines in terms of Data Fusion on different levels, such as data imperfection, data alignment/registration and data heterogeneity. In this senses MuFASA provides data fusion methodologies and modules dedicated to said tasks. In EURMRAS, the capabilities of MuFASA will be further improved and developed and are focusing on feature level data fusion.  On feature level, MuFASA incorporates a multimodal data fusion methodology based on inference (Bayesian). Beside establishing spatio-temporal coincidence of sensor observations an increased confidence and robustness of a sensing system is achieved.

It´s main advantaged are summarized in a reduction of the overall alarm rates as well as geo-localized fused events. MuFASA therefore benefits in:  

  • Time saving when verifying alarms
  • Same sensor technology as competitors, better detection rates and fewer false alarms.
  • Trust in overall sensor system is strengthened
  • No installation effort

By providing a real-time data fusion approach, sensor observation immediately can be fused to establish situational awareness in the use-cases defined within the EURMARS project. One challenge in the given setting is, that not only real-time data is available, but also semi-real time data (such as satellite images) and external data sources such as AIS[1]. This puts MuFASA before a new set of challenges, which will be evaluated within the project scope.

Due to its core methodology (inference), MuFASA excels in reducing the overall false alarms produced by single sensor systems. This is considered as one of the main impacts of the EURMARS system.

[1] AIS – Automatic identification system – Transponders are designed to be capable of providing position, identification, and other information about the ship to other ships and to coastal authorities automatically.

EURMARS 1st Living Lab Workshop

The 1st Living Lab Workshop took place in Varna, Bulgaria from September 25th to 29th, 2023. It was structured around technical preparations and testing scenarios. On the first day, participants focused on registrations and technical familiarisation. The subsequent days were dedicated to technical briefings, and extensive technical preparations, including presentations from partners. Testing and scenario executions were conducted on the final days, with comprehensive data collection and rehearsals.

The event concluded with closing remarks, an after-action review, and wrap-up sessions before participants departed. Throughout the workshop, collaborative technical work, scenario rehearsals, and valuable discussions among attendees fostered a dynamic and productive environment, advancing our shared objectives in border management and surveillance innovation.

EURMARS project presentation at iProcureNet Workshop

SKYLD LTD as a representative of the EURMARS Project at the iProcureNet Workshop had the chance to present the solution that will be developed during EURMARS project that could be of interest to the security sector.

During its annual meeting, the iProcureNet General Assembly organized a workshop that brought together a diverse range of participants, including internal and external stakeholders, as well as experts. The workshop took place in Nicosia, Cyprus on 11th – 12th of September and was convened to facilitate discussions centered on the research and solutions developed within the framework of addressing the innovation needs for the JCBPP (Joint Capability Building and Procurement Planning) project.

In addition to the esteemed members of the iProcureNet General Assembly and project stakeholders, the workshop extended its invitation to various groups:

  • Representatives from H2020/Horizon Europe projects.
  • Providers of innovative solutions.
  • Experts in the field of procurement.

This workshop provided a platform for participants to exchange valuable insights pertaining to cutting-edge technologies and advancements within specific domains that the iProcureNet project has identified as particularly promising for the JCBPP initiative. These domains encompass:

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
  • Border management solutions.
  • Data fusion techniques.
  • Mitigation strategies for wildfires.

Attendees had the opportunity to discuss not only the state of the art in these areas but also to explore the solutions that have been developed within other innovative projects.

EURMARS participated to Projects to Policy Seminar

We are delighted to share that the recent Projects to Policy Seminar that was held in Brussels on June 14 and 15, 2023, provided an invaluable platform for collaboration and knowledge exchange between newly launched projects and policy DGs. Organized by DG HOME and REA, the seminar facilitated engagement, fostering alignment between research efforts and policy priorities. Participants were grouped into four thematic areas, enabling focused discussions and enhancing the impact of the seminar. The four thematic areas where:

  • Fighting crime and terrorism & Infrastructure (FCT/INFRA)
  • Strengthened Security Research and Innovation (SSRI)
  • Disaster-resilient societies (DRS),
  • Border management (BM)

The aim was to raise awareness among the relevant policy DGs on the new projects that have been launched, as well as to provide guidance to these new projects regarding the policy-related outputs the policy DGs are interested in.

The EURMARS team was excited to share its progress, exchange knowledge, and receive guidance from policy experts during the seminar’s plenary sessions and thematic breakout discussions.

It provided a great opportunity for the EURMARS project to showcase its ground-breaking vision and present its innovative solutions for improving situational awareness and operational efficiency in border management.

The Ethics of Border Management Surveillance Technology – Workshop

A workshop on “The Ethics of Border Management Surveillance Technology” took place via webinar on the 15th of June 2023. As experts in the ethics of new technologies, Trilateral Research was chairing the discussions on ethical, social, and legal implications of an EU Border Management Surveillance System.

The workshop was designed to bring together EURMARS project partners as specialists in the field of surveillance technology and border management, and civil society representatives focused on the protection of human rights, to discuss the latest developments and challenges in border management.

It was a great opportunity for project partners and other professionals to share perspective on the Ethics of Border Management Surveillance Technology and discuss to what extent these perspectives should be considered during EURMARS and/or other border management projects.

Topics that where discussed:

  • EU Border Management: challenges and path going forward
  • Overview of the EURMARS Project and its objectives
  • Ethical and Social Implications of EU border Management Surveillance Systems
  • Legal Framework and Best Practices for Border Management Surveillance Systems
  • AI Act and its impact on border management surveillance technologies
  • Best Practices for Border Management Surveillance