The Japan Coast Guard has learned from interviews with officials that it is making adjustments to deploy three or more new unmanned aerial vehicles "Sea Guardian", which began operation this year, from next year.

It is also considering sharing information acquired by unmanned aerial vehicles with the Maritime Self-Defense Force in real time.

In order to strengthen the surveillance system in the waters surrounding Japan, the Japan Coast Guard began operating one unmanned aerial vehicle "Sea Guardian" that operates from the ground in October.

According to the Japan Coast Guard, the high-performance camera installed can shoot ships from an altitude of 3000 meters or more, and it can also detect infrared rays at night.

In addition, since it can fly continuously for more than 24 hours and can check real-time images on the ground, it is expected to be used for territorial waters security and salvage.

According to officials, the Japan Coast Guard is making adjustments to deploy three aircraft as early as April next year, and then deploying one or more.

It is estimated that the time and area in which a single Sea Guardian can perform surveillance is two to three times more than that of a single manned aircraft. I want to build a system that I can understand.

Many manned aircraft are deployed in Okinawa Prefecture, where the Senkaku Islands are located, but in recent years illegal fishing by North Korean and Chinese fishing boats has become a problem in the waters around the Yamato Bank off the Noto Peninsula. It is expected that surveillance work will be mainly carried out using unmanned aerial vehicles.

Regarding the Sea Guardian, the Maritime Self-Defense Force plans to start trial operation from next fiscal year, and the Japan Coast Guard is considering acquiring information within the scope of the police's authority and sharing it in real time. The challenge is how to proceed with information sharing.

What is the unmanned aerial vehicle "Sea Guardian"?

"Sea Guardian" is a large unmanned aerial vehicle developed by the American defense company "General Atomics" based on military aircraft and modified to specialize in maritime surveillance.

The introduction cost is about 4 billion yen, the Japan Coast Guard leases the aircraft to respond to the latest technology, and the pilot is outsourced.

The base is the Maritime Self-Defense Force's air base in Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture, and an operation center with a cockpit was set up.

Four coast guard officers take turns as "operation officers", instructing the pilots on the areas to fly and the objects to be photographed, and confirming the images and radar information on the monitor.

In the background of the introduction, there is an increase in the work burden of coast guard officers, and they want to improve operational efficiency and improve the quality of maritime surveillance by taking advantage of the reduced number of personnel compared to manned aircraft.

In addition, since it is possible to check the situation at the site for a long time even when a disaster or marine accident occurs, it is assumed that images of the damage situation on remote islands, for example, will be shared with related organizations such as local governments.

Enhancing "Understanding of Normal Conditions" in Sea Areas with High-Performance Equipment

What the Japan Coast Guard wants to strengthen by introducing unmanned aerial vehicles is the "understanding of the normal situation" of the sea area.

"Normal state monitoring" is the idea that abnormal movements can be detected by accumulating normal marine information such as ship distribution and weather, in addition to monitoring suspicious ships.

In response to this interview, the Japan Coast Guard released for the first time a part of the video taken from the Sea Guardian after the start of operation.

The image of the high-performance camera clearly shows the state of the ship taken from an altitude of 3000 meters or more, where the appearance and sound of the aircraft cannot be confirmed in infrared mode.

It is possible to detect heat sources and traces of light, so the cigarette fire is reflected in white and you can see how the sailors are smoking.

According to the Japan Coast Guard officer who operates it, it is possible to check the name of the ship and the state of the ship from a high altitude even at night.

In addition, it has a function that can identify suspicious ships that do not operate the "AIS (Automatic Identification System)" that transmits the ship's position information with a radar with high detection ability.

There is also a function to identify the ship by ship shape using AI = artificial intelligence, and it means that data will be accumulated in the future.

Yasunori Watanabe, Director of the Security and Rescue Department of the Japan Coast Guard, said, "Unmanned aircraft have better surveillance capabilities than manned aircraft, so the level of information will be much higher in terms of quantity and quality. We need to improve our analytical capabilities so that they can be used in aircraft operations."

On top of that, regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for ``understanding the normal situation,'' he said, ``For example, if you continue to accumulate information on the distribution of fishing boats for several years, a certain tendency will emerge. If there is a situation, we can make predictions that something might happen, and we can deploy patrol vessels and aircraft more thickly." He expressed his desire to strengthen the system.

There is also a case of grasping a Chinese oceanographic research vessel

There are also cases where abnormal situations were detected by "understanding the normal situation".

Three years ago, a Chinese marine research vessel commissioned by a private company attempted to conduct a marine survey for the construction of a planned offshore wind farm off the coast of the Sea of ​​Japan.

According to people involved, the Japan Coast Guard grasped the trends of the Chinese research vessel, which was navigating waters that were not supposed to normally navigate, using satellite information, etc., and as a result of sharing information among related ministries and agencies, the vessel returned to Niigata Port. Although it entered port, it returned to China without conducting an investigation.

Japan Coast Guard and Self-Defense Forces also considering strengthening cooperation

The Maritime Self-Defense Force will start trial operation of Sea Guardian at Hachinohe Air Base from next fiscal year. We will improve the efficiency of operations through

The Japan Coast Guard is considering using unmanned aerial vehicles to acquire information within the scope of police authority and sharing it with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in real time. I think the Maritime Self-Defense Force has analytical capabilities that I don't have. I don't know if they will provide all the information, but I hope they will share the situation in the surrounding waters."

Under these circumstances, the government is considering strengthening cooperation between the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces regarding the "National Security Strategy", which is the basic policy of diplomacy and defense to be revised by the end of the year.

Expert "Need to create a framework for information sharing"

Bonji Obara, a senior researcher at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation who is a former Maritime Self-Defense Force officer and is familiar with maritime surveillance, said that the Japan Coast Guard's unmanned aerial vehicle can actually fly for more than 30 hours, and if you change pilots on the ground, it will take about that time. It's not very fast, so it can stay in a certain airspace all the time and capture a target at a fixed point.It can be used both as a complement to manned aircraft and as a way to stay above the target for a long time." said.

On top of that, he said, ``Marine surveys and illegal fishing operations without permission from the Japanese government are already being carried out in the exclusive economic zone. It is expected that the ability to obtain detailed information on the surrounding waters will be extremely effective in protecting Japan's security and economic interests. I am doing,” he said.

On the other hand, as a current issue, "It is difficult to keep track of all wide-area targets at all times, and there is still a lack of systems and facilities to integrate the vast amount of information. There is a need to create a framework for information sharing. However, the issue is how the data will be passed and how it will be merged.In the future, the two organizations will have to consider what kind of system and how it will be merged. ' said.