(Semi-)automatic Detection of Highly Vulnerable Small Marine Vehicles for Disaster Mitigation with Radar (SAR) Satellite Imagery.
Use Case: Refugee Rubber Inflatables

This project aims at the development of the capabilities for a to the greatest possible extent automated detection of small, non-metallic maritime vehicles with satellite-born Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). Methods will be applied to the special use case of refugee rubber inflatables which have most often been used by refugees in recent years to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The development of for our target specially tailored semi-automated Vessel Detection Systems (VDS) should support Search & Rescue missions in finding distressed boats and facilitate fast and sustainable disaster mitigation. Due to the radar's all-weather and all-day capabilities it is best suitable for time critical application.

The results should represent a central building block in a bigger infrastructure facilitating the search for refugee inflatables in distress and covering the whole search and rescue-zone in the central Mediterranean. Experiencing substantial and active developments regarding satellite technology and continuously rising numbers of operable satellite systems, there is the prospect of of available SAR data in the near future in sufficient spatial and temporal resolution. This perspective is a promising outlook. First, for further developments of methods and algorithms which are capable of analyzing and processing that valuable data in automated ways and second, for the realization of a search and rescue infrastructure that depends on the continuous influx of SAR imagery.


En nuestro proyecto queremos desarrollar las capacidades para la detección semiautomática de los barcas pequeños y no-metálicos con la data radar por satélite. Los casos de uso son zodíacos y pesqueros pequeños que regularmente los refugiados se usan para cruzar el Mar Mediterráneo. Los resultados del proyecto deben ayudar los misiones Search&Rescue para mitigar la crisis de refugiados.


Ce projet a l'objectif à améliorer les aptitudes pour la détection semi-automatique de las barques petites et non métalliques avec les données satellitaires radar en haute résolution. Las cases d'utilisation sont les zodiaques et les balancelles petits que souvent sont utilisées des réfugiés pour traverser la Méditerranée. Les résultats de ce projet doivent aider les missions Search&Rescue pour contribuer à l'atténuation des effets de la crise des réfugiés.

Books and Papers

Lanz, P.; Marino, A.; Brinkhoff, T.; Köster, F.; Möller, M. (2021): The InflateSAR Campaign: Testing SAR Vessel Detection Systems for Refugee Rubber Inflatables. Remote Sensing. 2021; 13(8):1487 , doi: 10.3390/rs13081487
Lanz, P.; Marino, A.; Brinkhoff, T.; Köster, F.; Möller, M. (2020): The InflateSAR Campaign: Evaluating SAR Identification Capabilities of Distressed Refugee Boats. Remote Sensing 2020, Vol. 12, 3516 , doi: 10.3390/rs12213516


Lanz, P. : Satellite-based Radar for Disaster Mitigation: Investigating Detection Capabilities of Distressed Refugee Boats using SAR. Living Planet Symposium 2019, Milan, Italy, Mai 2019 Weblink
Lanz, P. : Investigating Detection Capabilities of Distressed Refugee Boats Using SAR. ESA POLINSAR 2019 Conference, Frascati (Rome), Italy, Januar 2019 Weblink