DOLPHIN (Development of Pre-operational Services for Highly Innovative Maritime Surveillance Capabilities) is an FP7 Copernicus research and development project in the field of support to Maritime Surveillance. Over its 30-month duration, the DOLPHIN project will develop new methods and algorithms for processing satellite radar and optical images in order to improve the detection and monitoring of seafaring vessels. 

These tools will facilitate efforts to mitigate or prevent piracy, illegal immigration and goods trafficking, illegal fishing and accidents at sea. They will serve as the basis for pre-operational Copernicus services for Maritime Surveillance.

By combining several data processing techniques and integrating the outputs with other sources of information (such as vessel monitoring and positioning systems and in situ data), the project will create Decision Support Modules (DSM), which can be incorporated into users existing operational workflows. The benefits of DOLPHIN arise from improving the accuracy of information and speed of decision-making.

DOLPHIN responds directly to priorities defined in the EU Integrated Maritime Policy. In particular, three policy areas of benefit have been identified:

  1. Border Surveillance
  2. Traffic Safety
  3. Fisheries Control

The consortium partners have identified the need for optimising existing space-based observation systems to provide improved solutions to maritime surveillance user needs. This will be done through close interactions with users. The following technological gaps are being addressed:

  • The need for more timely and reliable information;
  • The need for the enhancement of situational awareness;
  • The need for improved reaction capabilities through the provision of reliable decision support tools;
  • The need for improved control and detection of very small and/or fast vessels.

DOLPHIN intends to create innovative algorithms and software tools applicable at global scale for the policy areas of interest by addressing the above mentioned technological gaps. The tools will be linked with existing operational systems to form a cohesive and integrated decision support environment, integrating satellite and non-space data sources. 

The DOLPHIN consortium includes twenty partners from eight European countries, as well as the European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen). The partners are key players in the area of satellite-based services and systems for maritime surveillance applications. All consortium partners have extensive experience in international research and development, whilst the service providers have proven capabilities to develop near real-time services for the policy areas addressed by the project.

The improvements to current services implemented by DOLPHIN are of interest to coast guards, Navies, port and maritime authorities and law enforcement agencies. Several users representing these groups are participating to the project activities. Long duration trials have been planned in close cooperation with these users in order to demonstrate and validate the outputs of the project.