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Critical Software: Ship Identification for Maritime Surveillance – Space Technology for the protection of the European External Border

Critical Software and Instituto de Telecomunicações will develop an innovative technology that allows the detection and classification of vessels based on a new generation of high resolution satellite images.

The aim of this initiative is to control the European external border effectively and according to the activities lead by the European Agency FRONTEX. In Portugal, the control of the Atlantic border is crucial to assure the management and safety of the vessel traffic and the detection of illegal activities. This public/private partnership is financed by Agência da Inovação, which aims to enforce the existing collaboration between the institutions and the Portuguese manufacturing on the strategic domain of the remote detection with satellite images.

Radar sensors on board of satellites can be used to give an independent source of information by any weather condition, during the day and night. Ocean monitoring services based satellite data are already in place but current technology can only perform a rough detection providing uncertain information on size and type of the vessels.

In this project, images acquired by the new TerraSAR-X satellite will be used. TerraSAR-X bears a powerful SAR sensor with unprecedented high spatial resolution. A space based ocean monitoring system will improve safety and security at sea, supporting authorities in case of storms, search and rescue operations, fishery control, and coastal patrol activities.
Among other things, this technology will allow:

  • The detection of floating objects with only a few meters dimension.
  • To classify vessels and provide valuable information concerning the type, speed and activity of the vessel.

The development of this technology will make Critical Software become a reference partner on the development of informatic systems for the safety domain.

Diamantino Costa, Critical Software’s Vice-President states that “The monitoring and surveillance systems are a long-term strategic intake of the company and there are already concrete opportunities of projects in this specific field in Portugal”.

FRONTEX Agency aims to reinforce the border security, assuring the coordination of the Member States’ activities on the application of community measures concerning the management of external borders.

About Critical Software SA

Created in 1998, a Critical Software ( is an international systems and software company with headquarters in Coimbra with offices in Lisbon and Oporto (Portugal), San Jose (US) and Southampton (UK). Critical Software supports critical business or mission informatic systems on several markets, including Aeronautics, Defence, Finance Services, Government, Manufacturing, Space and Telecommunications. The company is currently implementing a quality management certificate system – CMMI Level 3, ISO 9001:2000 Tick-IT, ISO 15504, AQAP 2120 and EN9100.

About the Insituto das Telecomunicações

Instituto de Telecomunicações – Telecom Institute (IT) – is a private, non-profit and of public utility institution (associated laboratory) that aggregates five institutions which are experienced in investigation and development on the telecom domain: Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) (Technical Superior Intitute); Universidade de Aveiro (UA) (Aveiro University); Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra (FCTUC) (Science and Technology University of Coimbra); Portugal Telecom Inovação (PTIn), (Portugal Telecom Innovation) and Siemens Network SA.

About the TerraSAR-X project

The TerraSAR-X project ( ) consists on the development of the radar satellite TerraSAR-X and on the scientific and commercial use of the images and information that it generates. It is the first German satellite built within a public/private partnership between DLR (German Aerospace Agency) and EADS Astrium. The satellite was launched on the past 15th June and the first images were received a week later.

For more information:

Critical Software SA
Tel. +351 239 989 100
Fax: +351 239 989 119