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A team of technology boffins has created the WatchStander, a non-lethal defense against maritime piracy.
Originally developed for the U.S. naval fleet, WatchStander is a fully automated and integrated system that detects pirates before launching a series of counter measures.
WatchStander works by identifying pirate craft at long range and launching an automatic and unmanned defense at several miles range that becomes progressively more robust if the attacker fails to withdraw.
Tests have shown WatchStander to be accurate and reliable in identifying pirate craft and distinguishing them from other non-threatening vessels. It is currently undergoing an audit and performance assessment by maritime security and operations consultants.
“I’ve been aware of this type of surveillance, recognition and defence technology for some time,” said Admiral Mark Fitzgerald (Ret.), former commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa, who recently joined the company as a special adviser. “The fact that it can now be used to defend the world’s commercial fleets is a major leap forward in the fight against maritime piracy.”
In 2012 (through August), seven vessels and 177 hostages were being held by Somali pirates.
In 2011, at least 3,863 seafarers were fired upon by Somali pirates armed with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. It is estimated that 1,206 hostages were held captive in 2011.
Many of these attacks occur on cargo ships, costing the world’s economies more than $6.6 billion in 2011. The majority of that cost is spent mitigating attacks rather than in ransoms, according to the Oceans Beyond Piracy Report 2011, issued in February.
WatchStander founder David Rigsby has more than 30 years’ experience in perimeter protection and the defense industry.
“The answer to piracy has been eagerly awaited the maritime industry,” Rigsby said. “The strategies being used at present are piecemeal, uncoordinated, cumbersome or hugely expensive.
“This one-off technological installation prevents pirates getting on board ships and will change the course of maritime history.”
For more information, visit watchstander.com.