04 Aug 2014

JRC analyses satellite images of Costa Concordia towing in support of Copernicus

satellite image from Sentinel 1 showing the towing of the Costa Concordia cruise ship
Towing the Costa Concordia cruise ship
© ESA, 2014

The JRC is currently developing maritime surveillance capabilities with the new Sentinel-1 satellite, one of the main assets under the EU’s “Copernicus” Earth Observation programme. The towing of the Costa Concordia cruise ship in the last week of July 2014 presented a good opportunity for the ongoing assessment of Sentinel-1 products. Although this satellite is still being commissioned to prepare for routine operations, these early images collected by the European Space Agency (ESA) demonstrate the value of its radar vision also for maritime safety and security applications.


The Sentinel-1A images were acquired over the coast of north-western Italy while the Costa Concordia was being towed towards the city of Genoa. The ship capsized near the island of Giglio in January 2012. Following more than two years of salvage operations, the ship began its final journey under tow on 23 July 2014, arriving at the port of Genoa four days later.


Under the security dimension of the Copernicus programme, the JRC performs research to support the development of the maritime surveillance services. Applications include secure maritime transport, marine resource protection, safety of navigation, marine pollution, law enforcement, and overall security. Before the Copernicus maritime surveillance services can be deployed in an operational mode, work is being pursued mainly through research and demonstration activities. This involves developing, demonstrating and validating algorithms to process Sentinel-1 data and ways to use the satellite in combination with other data sources. The aim is to create information that is of direct use to authorities in Europe working in operations, as well as in policy making.

Besides this satellite analysis work, while the Costa Concordia was stranded, the JRC monitored its motions down to mm scales with a special on-site radar to warn for sliding.

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