Marine equipment
The Martek Anti-Drone Systems (MADS), launched earlier this year in the UAE, can help ships deal with the drone threats Image Credit: Supplied

If you were a famous celebrity in an Austin Powers flick, you would probably have sharks — with laser beams attached to their heads — defending your swanky yacht from drones launched by the pesky paparazzi.

In real life, though, you might have to settle for the next best thing — the Martek Anti-Drone System (MADS), which was released earlier this year in the UAE.

The system detects drones five kilometres away, giving you time to assess the threat and, if required, create an exclusion zone around your ship.

If a drone breaches this perimeter, MADS swings into action, cuts off the drone’s control and video signals, and forces it to land or return to its operator.

Protection against drones

“The threat of drone intrusion, even attacks, has become very real over recent months,” says John W.R. Paul, General Manager of Exalto Emirates, a Sharjah-based marine equipment supplier. “MADS can be used for any application related to water, whether it be ships, ports, yachts, offshore platforms or marinas.”

And apart from the ability to zap drones, modern ships are likely to be brimming with the latest buzzword technologies.

“Artificial intelligence, along with data analytics and augmented reality technologies using robots, are being developed to aid in ship management, safety, cargo planning and scheduling, maintenance, servicing and inspection, among other uses,” says Leena Asher, who has developed the I-Demurrage app for the oil tanker industry.

She states that the key word here is smart. “While we have heard about smart homes, the shipping industry is witnessing the development of smart ships, smart ports and smart apps. These are changing the face of the maritime ecosystem as the industry braces for a shift from the traditional ways of functioning to newer, faster and efficient ways.”

Also, greener ways — the marine equipment market is witnessing a growing demand for products that go easier on the environment.

Green products

“There is no denying that the world is turning green around us and in the maritime environment, discussions about green solutions have become very prevalent,” says Asher. This green trend is influencing everything from supply of solar panels and biodegradable marine cleaning materials to tackling engine emissions and on-board waste-management systems that meet the current stringent environmental standards or generally help towards a better environment.

Diesel outboards, for example, are replacing traditional petrol engines and bringing with them “enormous increased efficiency and tremendous cost savings”.

Besides, they are safer to use in an oil and gas environment due to the lack of spark plugs and the inherent safety of diesel over petrol. Similarly, recent regulations have obliged even smaller vessels to provide treatment systems for bilge water. Marine equipment manufacturers have responded with compact and innovative products that eliminate the need for large and expensive bilge oily water separators.

And yes, the ride is becoming more comfortable with the popularity of recently-introduced marine gyro stabilisers that tackle rolling motion and eliminate sea sickness — not only on rough seas but also in the most sheltered harbours that have to deal with unpleasant wave induced motion.

So perhaps, in a future Austin Powers flick, we will get to see laser-toting, gyro-stabilised, solar panel-powered, eco-friendly, smart sharks duking it out with drones.