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COM DEV to Demonstrate Advanced Space-Based AIS Capability
Cambridge, Ontario (ots/PRNewswire) -
- Canadian Military Signs Contract to Evaluate Suitability for Northern Surveillance
COM DEV International Ltd. (TSX: CDV), a leading manufacturer of space hardware subsystems, today announced that the Company has secured a space flight opportunity to demonstrate an advanced AIS data detection capability from space. AIS, or Automatic Identification System, is a VHF broadcast system required aboard major marine vessels to locate and identify ships at sea. COM DEV has developed satellite payload technology to solve the traditional challenges associated with space-based collection of AIS data, and is committed to commercializing it following a series of planned tests.
"Space-based collection of AIS data offers tremendous cost and performance advantages over existing methods of monitoring marine traffic," said John Keating, CEO of COM DEV. "After more than two years of work we have developed a very promising solution that is ready to be validated under real world conditions. The potential market for this technology is significant, and we believe we are well positioned to become world leaders."
The AIS data transmitted by over 68,000 ships worldwide is now collected primarily from other ships and land-based receivers with a limited range of approximately 50 nautical miles. A reliable satellite-based collection system would eliminate the 50-mile limitation as well as the need to build large numbers of ground stations along the world's coastlines. Existing AIS transmissions can be received from space, but the primary technical barrier to a space-based system has been "de-colliding" the cacophony of signals received simultaneously from hundreds or even thousands of vessels in a satellite field of view.
COM DEV has developed an advanced, proprietary de-collision process (patent pending) that is capable of separating the multitude of AIS signals into meaningful information. The satellite payloads, which would fly in low-earth orbit, would make immediate use of over US $300 million of AIS equipment already installed by the global shipping industry since mandated in 2004 by the International Maritime Organization. The payloads would include an onboard encryption system to maintain data security.
COM DEV is conducting a number of tests to validate its AIS technology, beginning with an aircraft trial in November 2007. The next stage will involve a prototype test in orbit aboard a nanosatellite currently under construction at the University of Toronto's Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Laboratory (UTIAS/SFL) targeted for launch in the second quarter of calendar 2008. The final test will utilize a dedicated microsatellite capable of demonstrating the full commercial viability of the technology.
The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND), Project Polar Epsilon, has signed a small contract with COM DEV to obtain data which it will use to evaluate the results of the trials to assess the suitability of the advanced AIS system for operational requirements. Polar Epsilon is a DND capital project to exploit space-based capabilities in support of Canadian Arctic and marine surveillance. DND is especially interested in the potential for space-based AIS technology to assist with its objective of monitoring shipping traffic in the Canadian Arctic.
Maritime and coastal countries around the globe will have the opportunity to evaluate the system capability as well, and several international agencies have already expressed an interest in observing the trial results.
COM DEV anticipates that there is a market among various satellite service providers for over 40 AIS payloads that could be in orbit by 2015. The processed AIS data from these service providers would be of interest to national governments, port authorities, coast guards, search and rescue organizations, shipping companies, and insurance companies, among others.
For additional information about AIS, please see the "Backgrounder" attached to this press release.
About COM DEV
COM DEV International Ltd. (http://www.comdevintl.com) is a leading global designer and manufacturer of space hardware subsystems. With facilities in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, COM DEV manufactures advanced products and subsystems that are sold to major satellite prime contractors for use in communications, space science, remote sensing and military satellites.
COM DEV and COM DEV USA are registered trademarks of COM DEV International Ltd. This news release may contain certain forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from results indicated in any forward-looking statements. The Company cautions that, among other things, in view of the rapid changes in communications markets and technologies, and other risks including the cost and market acceptance of the Company's new products, the level of individual customer procurements and competitive product offerings and pricing, and general economic circumstances, the Company's business prospects may be materially different from forward-looking statements made by the Company.
Automatic Identification System
What is AIS?
Automatic Identification System (AIS) technology relies upon global navigational positioning systems, shipboard sensors, and digital VHF radio communication equipment operating according to standardized digital communication protocols that permit the voiceless exchange of navigation information between vessels and shore-side vessel traffic centers. The information is continually updated in near real-time and received by all AIS-equipped ships and shore stations in its vicinity.
Ships equipped with AIS transponders automatically broadcast basic information every 2 to 10 seconds about their identity, position, course, speed, and navigational status.
How is AIS data used?
AIS data helps passing ships avoid collisions, particularly in situations where they are unable to visually identify one another. AIS data is currently used by port authorities, coast guards, national governments and others who have an interest in identifying and locating vessels that enter their territory. The information can be used to support maritime operations, search and rescue, and environmental protection as well as security applications.
What ships are required to have AIS onboard?
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires AIS equipment to be installed, generally, on the following vessels: commercial vessels of 65 feet or more in length; tankers; passenger vessels exceeding 150 gross tons or certificated to carry more than 150 passengers; and vessels exceeding 300 gross tons. Since the IMO requirements went into effect on December 31, 2004, it is estimated that more than 68,000 vessels worldwide have installed AIS equipment at a cost of CAD$1,500 to CAD$5,000 per vessel (not including installation costs).
What are the advantages of detecting AIS data from space?
The curvature of the Earth limits the range of surface-based AIS receivers to approximately 50 nautical miles. An orbiting satellite would be able to detect AIS signals from a large area at any given time. A modest constellation of such satellites could effectively cover all navigable waters on the planet, providing real-time data on the world's maritime activity that is currently unavailable from any source.
An effective space-based AIS detection system would reduce the need for ground-based receivers, while utilizing the maritime community's existing investment in AIS technology.
What are the barriers to space-based AIS?
Today's satellites have no difficulty receiving AIS signals from space; the challenge lies in distinguishing between the multitude of signals that would be received at any given moment. Without an advanced method of filtering and isolating the signals, the satellites would be incapable of returning usable information.
How does COM DEV plan to overcome these barriers?
COM DEV International Ltd. has developed a unique de-collision process (patent pending) whose advanced algorithms are capable of separating the multitude of AIS signals into meaningful information. The Company is planning a series of tests that are expected to validate the satellite payload technology and lead to its full scale commercialization.
What are nanosatellites and microsatellites?
A nanosatellite is a very small, low power satellite (total mass on the order of 10 kg) that can be inexpensively built and launched into orbit to test and demonstrate new technology for short missions (approximately one year). Microsatellites are larger satellites (mass of approximately 100 kg) that support higher power levels and longer mission durations (up to five years). Microsatellites can be used to provide commercial-quality services from low Earth orbit (i.e. orbital altitudes of 500 to 1000 km above Earth).
What is the potential market for space-based AIS data?
Data generated by a space-based AIS system would likely be of interest to the following organizations:
- National governments, militaries, coastal authorities and surveillance agencies
- Non-governmental organizations such as the International Maritime Organization and the European Maritime Safety Agency
- Search and rescue organizations
- Shipping companies and their insurers
- Port and maritime operations organizations
- Flag states
To learn more
More information about AIS is available online at the following address: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/enav/ais
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