ALMA is a 10-month project that at its conclusion shall demonstrate that an Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) can be made to autonomously land onto the deck of a vessel underway at sea.

Detection of illegal fishing activity with limited numbers of maritime enforcement vessels, is a huge challenge. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing exists in part because there are vast areas of ocean to monitor. Effective enforcement is required, supported through increased utilization of surveillance technology.

Ship-launched Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) have the potential to greatly extend the surveillance and evidence gathering capability of coastguard vessels and rapidly respond to suspicious or uncooperative vessels detected by ship-borne radar. Video evidence can be captured from the UAS, and the locations and activities of suspect vessels can be reported rapidly to coastguard authorities.

Currently though, landing a UAS on to a moving coastguard vessel requires a highly skilled operator. The ALMA technologies shall alleviate the requirement to place skilled (and scarce) UAS pilots into offshore operational roles. We shall automate the critical landing phase of the UAS onto the vessel at the end of its reconnaissance mission, with a combination of intelligent sensing and beacon technologies. This will greatly increase the number of deployed UAS in service, reduce operating costs, and significantly extend coverage of each maritime surveillance vessel.

Project outcomes will include determination of the reliability and constraints of the automated landing system, through multiple structured landing tests onto a vessel underway. Limitations of vessel speed, wind and sea state will be determined during trials, and reported.