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.

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 – 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.