Thermal cameras to fight illegal fishing The FLIR camera with Gradient video analytics makes it possible to identify small targets even under difficult conditions. Photo: FLIR

The nature of the coast of Galicia in north-western Spain with its multitude of fishing and fish farming activities means that new approaches are called for to guard against illegal fishing.

With 1200 km of coastline, monitoring is a challenging task that involves surveillance of 122 ports, around 5000 fishing boats, 400 beaches dedicated to shellfish harvesting, and 47 mussel aquaculture farms with a total of more than 3000 floating mussel farms.

Most illegal activity takes place at night, making it extra difficult for law enforcers to detect any type of vessel. The Galician climate does not help, with an average of 128 days of rain annually, making visibility conditions rarely ideal for surveillance operations.

In 2017, the Galician Coast Guard initiated test video coastal surveillance based on thermal imaging cameras. The pilot project made use of FLIR’s PT Series multi-sensor camera, combined with maritime video analytics software from Pontevedra company Gradiant. The multi-sensor installation was extensively tested at two locations. One set-up was used to monitor illegal vessels on coastal waters at short/medium range, while another set-up was used for long-range monitoring.

The PT-Series are extremely rugged systems, ideal for coastal surveillance, especially in an extremely humid environment such as along Spain’s Atlantic coast. The system’s vital core is well protected against dust and water ingress, and complies with IP66 requirements.

The PT Series thermal cameras allowed the Coast Guard to monitor the required area over a long range around the clock, even at night and in adverse weather conditions. In addition, the FLIR thermal images were enhanced by Gradiant’s intelligent video analytics software for maritime applications. This software is specifically adapted for monitoring coastal environments and allowed the coast guard to detect, track and geo-locate people and vessels, including small wooden and plastic boats, including under adverse conditions.

Multi-sensor system

The FLIR PT Series is a high-performance multi-sensor pan/tilt security camera, incorporating an uncooled thermal camera with sensitivity of <35mK and a visible-light camera with 36x optical zoom. While the thermal camera is used to detect threats over a long range based on their heat signatures, the visible-light camera can be used for verification and identification.

“FLIR is the reference for long-range surveillance applications with thermal imaging,” said José Antonio Rodríguez, head of video analytics at Gradiant. “The thermal performance of the camera and the fact that this technology is easy to set up makes it ideal for this type of application. In addition, FLIR supported us from the start for lens selection, calibration of the system and much more.”

Two configurations were used in this application, and the long-range surveillance station used a FLIR PT-606 camera, and was able to detect an inflatable boat at 4000m. Despite its narrow field of view, this camera’s high-precision pan/tilt allowed for wide coverage, able to sweep a wide field of view span in a pre-programmed sequence. The port surveillance station used a PT-625, offering a good compromise between detection range and field of view with a single pan/tilt preset.

The integration of the video analytics software with the camera was easy thanks to IP video streaming and the camera’s ONVIF compliant interfaces for pan/tilt control. Long-range surveillance typically requires the use of lenses with a narrow field of view, which is a problem monitoring wide areas. However, the video analytics from Gradiant was able to take advantage of the Preset Sequencing mode of the FLIR PT Series. This enabled coverage of a wide field of view with a single camera with video analysis on each pan/tilt preset.

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