Industry NewsLive Oil On Water Exercise In The UK Collecting S, C And X Band Radar Data

Keith Skinner, Director – Aerospace Resources Ltd., writes: “The eagle has finally landed and we have an approved staging notice for the AirSAR exercise held on 25 June off the Isle of Wight. I know your circulation is international, and the exercise was perhaps quite low key when held against other annual live oil on water exercises, – but what makes this one unusual is that it is the first to be held in UK waters for many years and we had to cross many hurdles – and pacify many doubters – before embarking on the process.

Having released, and safely dispersed the oil, we are faced with a long period of data crunching to meet our objectives. We hope that results will demonstrate how the various sensors complement each other and offer insights into ideal combinations of sensors for oil spill detection and characterisation in the future”.

A live oil on water exercise was held on Wednesday 25 June in the English Channel south of the Isle of Wight. Aerospace Resources Ltd (ARL) sponsored and led the exercise having gained regulatory approval from UK government agencies. Oil Spill Response Ltd (OSRL) provided necessary expertise as enabling partners.

The project aimed to characterise the effectiveness of various Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) frequencies, and specifically SBand, for oil spill detection and quantification.

The S-Band airborne SAR demonstrator, developed by Airbus Defence and Space and deployed in this exercise, is a complementary instrument to the sensor that will be used in the new NovaSAR-S radar satellite..

Major stakeholders in the exercise were Airbus Defence and Space; the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); the British Antarctic Survey (BAS); the Satellite Applications Catapult and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL). DMCii, (a UK based supplier of remote sensing data) and the Surrey Space Centre (SSC) were also instrumental in the planning and continue their involvement with the ongoing task of data analysis.

The exercise was attended and observed by a number of government and environmental agencies in order to meet regulatory requirements.

Set quantities of oil of two different viscosities were released at the beginning of the exercise. Then for the next hour, a variety of airborne assets including S- and X- band radar sensors gathered SAR images, together with Visible, Infra-Red, Hyperspectral and Ultra Violet sensors collecting further data. During this time a RadarSat-2 image was acquired of the spill providing C-band radar data.

Finally, the clean-up operation was activated by OSRL with the assistance of some of the airborne sensors and also a data feed from a tethered aerostat. The clean-up operation was totally successful as validated by subsequent shoreline surveys and an additional Radarsat-2 image acquired 10 hours after the exercise.

The exercise has provided a large amount of scientific data including ground truth recorded throughout the exercise. The analysis of this data is now underway; this will provide background on how each sensor performed in oil detection in the given conditions. Further to this, analysis will be carried out into the effects of the changing environmental conditions on sensor capability and also how the sensors complement each other offering insights into an ideal combination of sensors for oil spill detection and characterisation.

Parties having an interest in the content of the full exercise, and any interim reports, are invited to contact ARL.


About ARL – Aerospace Resources Ltd (ARL) is a dynamic company focused on delivering innovative solutions to customers of all sizes across the aviation and aerospace sectors. ARL has been extensively involved in many aspects of oil spill monitoring and surveillance activities on behalf of the oil and gas industry, which has culminated in ARL taking an initiative to deliver an oil and gas led satellite capability to enhance monitoring capabilities.

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