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The ocean and the Blue Economy are top priorities in Portugal and in the European Union, as reflected by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), National Ocean Strategy (2013), Commission’s Atlantic Strategy (2011), and Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic Area (2013).

Within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the initial assessment of the marine waters reported by Portugal included the subdivision of the continent, the subdivision of the Azores, Madeira and the subdivision of the extended continental shelf, defined taking into account their hydrographic, oceanographic and biogeographic characteristics.

Several knowledge gaps regarding biodiversity descriptors were identified in those areas, which constrained the assessment of the environmental status regarding those descriptors. In the framework of the MSFD implementation Portugal proposes a monitoring programme (PMo) for the continuous assessment of the environmental status of marine waters and periodic updating of the environmental targets. A Programme of Measures (PMe) is also proposed which expresses Portugal’s intention of creating new large marine protected areas delimited in deep oceanic zones to be included in the OSPAR seamounts habitat. These actions intend to contribute to the preservation of Portugal’s natural patrimony and the economic activities linked to the seabed. In this sense it is of crucial importance to monitor the ecosystems and their biodiversity using new technological equipment to assess Portuguese Remote Marine Areas, including new technologies enabling marine data dissemination.

On the other hand, as defined by the National Ocean Strategy (2013), Portugal’s immense ocean territory, its extended Continental Shelf expected to be achieved by 2018, and its associated Blue Economy potential is envisioned to increase the activity at the ocean in the forthcoming years, including resource exploitation on the sea floor, environmental monitoring, scientific exploration, and surveillance of maritime borders, apart from the traditional activities such as maritime transportation and fisheries. This vision is also reflected in the Commission’s Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic Area.


The support of these activities will demand wireless and mobile communications to connect humans and systems at remote ocean areas to the Internet, namely in order to: 1) easily disseminate marine data collected by fixed and mobile ocean intelligent platforms at surface and underwater such as Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs); 2) enable users’ access to the state of the art Internet-based services and applications available on land.

There is no communications solution enabling broadband, cost-effective Internet access at remote ocean areas in alternative to satellite communications.



The BLUECOM+ key idea and innovation lies on:

  1. Using Helikites that can be tethered to existing and new land and ocean platforms – e.g., on shore buildings, oceanographic buoys, and offshore floating structures – and support the deployment of communications nodes at high altitudes for maximizing line-of-sight coverage, with the ultimate purpose of creating an airborne communications network extending wired and/or wireless Internet access from shore to remote ocean areas;
  2. Exploiting standard, low cost, and low-power wireless technologies that enable the use of sub GHz frequency bands, such as IEEE 802.11af and IEEE 802.11ah, which enable ranges of tens of kilometers when the antennas are installed at high altitudes – e.g., a IEEE 802.11af link with transmission power of 20dBm and 8 dBi transmitter and receiver antennas can easily be demonstrated to reach more than 50km of range when the first Fresnel Zone clearance is ensured;
  3. Leveraging multi-hop relaying techniques to further increase range, even though at the cost of lower bandwidth, which is inversely proportional to the average number of hops from the gateway node, i.e., the communications node on shore;
  4. Provisioning standard access networks at the sea, e.g., Wi-Fi and private GPRS/3G/4G networks using OpenBTS6, so that users and systems at remote ocean areas can get connected to the Internet as if they were on land or near shore (for vessels and the Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV));
  5. Provisioning acoustic communications for underwater sensors and unmanned vehicles, which may be connected to shore through a surface platform such as an ASV attached to the above water airborne communications network;
  6. Using standard wireless technologies that enable secure and reliable communications, such as IEEE 802.11a/g/n/ac/af/ah and GPRS/3G/4G.


In order to achieve the major project objective, the following specific objectives are considered:

  • To define a set of reference communications scenarios envisioned for remote ocean areas taking into account the views of the end-users participating in BLUECOM+ as well as the views of the parties participating in the other projects that will be funded by the Programme EEA Grants – “PT02 - Integrated Marine and Coastal Waters Management”;
  • To specify the BLUECOM+ communications solution, including airborne multi-hop and wireless mesh techniques for extended range, heterogeneous access networks, and emerging long range wireless technologies, taking into account the requirements derived from the communications scenarios;
  • To implement the BLUECOM+ communications solution, which will be formed by a set of flying communications nodes, called Flying Wireless Routers (FWRs), including the hardware and software components defined in the specification;
  • To create a proof-of-concept BLUECOM+ prototype composed by a set of FWRs forming an airborne communications network deployed at a remote ocean area to demonstrate that is possible to provide a broadband communications service at sea in alternative to Satellite;
  • To assess the impact of the BLUECOM+ communications solution in the Blue Economy stakeholders;
  • To develop an exploitation plan for the BLUECOM+ communications solution.
Project Consortium
logo INESC-TEC Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera Marlo, AS
Project co-funded by
EEA Grants Governo de Portugal Direção-Geral de Política do Mar