Project SeaWatch

The development of a low-cost contribution to maritime surveillance, via an autonomous uncrewed aircraft system.


Project SeaWatch

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Project dates: 1 April 2022 – 30 November 2023

About the project

As an island nation, surveillance of the UK’s coastal and maritime environment is of considerable importance, particularly for fisheries, shipping, search and rescue, and environmental protection applications. These challenges are mirrored in overseas contexts, including in areas such as the African coastline.

Project SeaWatch aims to develop a low-cost contribution to maritime surveillance, via an autonomous uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) with a specially-adapted, AI-enabled 3D camera system. An innovative system will be designed using proven technology to deliver a significant uplift in capability and resources to the user. SeaWatch also aims to deliver the capability to autonomously monitor vast areas of the sea, while only reporting alerts for anomalies desired by the user.

Using a UAV to search reduces cost, eliminates risk and makes better use of scarce human resources, but it has its own drawback: multiple studies show that one of the main failure mechanisms of using TV camera-based monitoring systems is human error in “spotting” the issue of interest.

Please Note: Funding available is the grant value awarded by Innovate UK.

Project activities

The project will design, develop and demonstrate a fully-integrated and fully-automatic system, specifically optimised for carrying out coastal maritime searches, using an extended development of an existing UAS platform, developed to operate in the challenging maritime environment. The platform will conduct the physical search, coupled with an extended development of an existing artificial-intelligence based image processing system to identify issues of interest and a new development in rapidly-deployable wireless networks to allow the system to be deployed quickly to any desired location. The system will integrate with automatic identification system (AIS) for vessels, cross referencing to support automation of management and enforcement of coastal waters regulations.


Project Seawatch will develop systems that can enable monitoring of vast areas while minimising efforts for the remote operator, through the use of artificial intelligence and automation to both operate the aircraft and automatically report incidents based on pre-defined criteria.

To find out more about the project, please contact Innovate UK Business Connect’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for Aviation.

Project partners

  • UAVaid
  • Archangel Imaging

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