DOLPHIN in a Nutshell

Credit: USCG
Credit: Ian Sherlock
Credit: French Navy - BAN Lanvéoc - Th. Delaveau
Credit: USCG
Credit: USCG

DOLPHIN is an EU Copernicus research and development project in the field of Maritime Surveillance. Over its 30-month duration, the DOLPHIN project will develop new methods and algorithms for processing satellite radar and optical images in order to improve the detection and monitoring of seafaring vessels. 

These tools will facilitate efforts to mitigate or prevent piracy, illegal immigration and goods trafficking, illegal fishing and accidents at sea. They serve as the basis for pre-operational Copernicus services for Maritime Surveillance.

By combining data processing techniques and integrating them with other sources of information (such as vessel monitoring and positioning systems and in situ data), the project will create Decision Support Modules (DSM) which can be incorporated into users’ existing operational workflows. The benefits of DOLPHIN arise from improving the accuracy of information and speed of decision-making.

DOLPHIN responds directly to priorities defined in the EU Integrated Maritime Policy, namely the improvement of maritime Border Surveillance, Maritime Traffic Safety and Security, and the fight against Illegal Fishing activities at sea. Three policy areas of benefit have been identified:

  1. Border Surveillance
  2. Traffic Safety
  3. Fisheries Control


The consortium partners have identified the need for optimising existing space-based observation systems to provide improved solutions to maritime surveillance user needs. This will be done through close interactions with users. The following technological gaps will be addressed:

  • more timely and reliable information;
  • the enhancement of situational awareness;
  • the increase of reaction capabilities through the provision of reliable decision support tools.


DOLPHIN intends to create innovative algorithms and software tools applicable at global scale for maritime border surveillance, traffic safety and security and fisheries control, by addressing the abovementioned technological gaps. The tools will be linked with existing operational systems to form a cohesive and integrated decision support environment, integrating satellite and non-space data sources. 

The project takes place within the context of multiple other EU operational and research-oriented initiatives within the European Maritime Surveillance domain developed by the EU Institutions, such as EUROSUR, MARSUR, EMSA’s CleanSeaNet and SafeSeaNet, and the CISE initiative (Common Information Sharing of the Environment for the surveillance of the EU Maritime Domain). In addition, DOLPHIN complements ongoing projects such as SEABILLA, SIMTISYS, NEREIDS and BlueMassMed. The project continues the legacy of previous GMES projects in Maritime Surveillance and related areas, such as LIMES, MARNIS, TANGO, OPERAMAR, GLOBE, MARSUNO and notably, MARISS.

The DOLPHIN consortium is comprised of twenty partners from eight European countries, as well as the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC). The partners, belonging both to Industry (e-GEOS, KSAT, CLS, Edisoft and Qinetiq) and to the public sector (DLR, the German Aerospace Center) are key players in the area of satellite-based services and systems for maritime surveillance applications. All consortium partners have extensive experience in international research and development, whilst the service providers have documented capabilities to develop near real-time services for the policy areas addressed by the project.

The improvements to the current maritime services’ integrated capabilities developed by DOLPHIN are of interest to coast guards, Navies, port and maritime authorities and law enforcement agencies. Several users have already agreed to participate in the project. Long duration trials are planned in close cooperation with these users in order to demonstrate and validate the outputs of the project.