Tag Archive for: Maritime

BlackSky & Spire Global have joined forces to offer a new global monitoring service that utilizes satellite technology to track ships. This service called the “maritime custody service” leverages radio frequency emissions to automatically task satellite imagery, detect and classify vessels, and provide continuous monitoring of maritime activities.

Spire Global’s radio-frequency monitoring satellites play a key role in detecting emissions from ships and identifying dark vessels that manipulate their reported positions to engage in suspicious activities. By analyzing radio-frequency data, the system can identify vessels that may be involved in illicit behavior. This information is then used to tip BlackSky’s satellites to collect relevant imagery of the identified vessels.

BlackSky’s Spectra AI platform, which operates in the cloud, uses artificial intelligence to analyze the electro-optical images captured by the satellites. The AI algorithms are designed to detect vessels, estimate cargo, and monitor changes over time. Additionally, the maritime tracking service incorporates synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from third-party satellites to complement the visible imagery. SAR technology is capable of penetrating clouds and darkness, providing valuable insights even in challenging weather conditions.

Spire’s satellites are responsible for tracking vessels emitting automatic identification system (AIS) data, as well as detecting spoofed AIS signals and other very high frequency (VHF) signals. By monitoring these signals, the system can enhance its understanding of vessel movements and potentially identify any suspicious activities.

By combining the capabilities of radio-frequency monitoring, electro-optical imagery analysis, and SAR technology, the maritime custody service offered by BlackSky & Spire Global provides comprehensive monitoring and tracking of ships worldwide. This service has the potential to support various applications, such as maritime security, anti-piracy efforts, and environmental monitoring in oceans and seas.

BlackSky & Spire Global’s maritime custody service offers the capability to track approximately 270,000 vessels worldwide, whether they are in open water, rivers, and canals, or docked at ports. This extensive monitoring ability is crucial for various purposes such as national security, detecting illicit ship-to-ship transfers, combating smuggling and sanctions evasion, and monitoring illegal fishing activities in restricted areas.

Iain Goodridge, Senior Director of Radio Frequency Geolocation Products at Spire, emphasized the importance of identifying, locating, and continuously monitoring ships, particularly those that manipulate their reported location. Dark shipping activity has significant impacts on the global economy, the environment, and people’s safety, making it vital to have robust tracking capabilities.

The data obtained through the service has multiple applications, including the ability to anticipate the consequences of port congestion and shipping delays on global and regional supply chains. By analyzing the insights provided by the monitoring service, stakeholders can make informed decisions to mitigate potential disruptions and optimize logistical operations.

Patrick O’Neil, Chief Innovation Officer at BlackSky, highlighted the service’s focus on delivering timely insights with minimal latency throughout the entire process, from tasking and collection to processing, exploitation, and dissemination. This ensures that the information is provided efficiently, enabling users to act promptly based on the received intelligence.

Thuraya, a company owned by Yahsat, has recently launched an upgraded multi-language software for Thuraya MarineStar, its maritime voice, tracking, and monitoring solution. The announcement about the software upgrade was made on April 25th. Since its initial release in 2019, Thuraya has already sold over 29,000 MarineStar devices across Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The new 2.0 ML firmware for MarineStar enhances its capabilities in geofencing, air programming, tracking, monitoring, fish catch reporting, and integration. It also introduces support for seven languages. Notably, the firmware update includes a new reporting mechanism for fishing and port call status, benefiting both vessel owners and maritime port authorities. This feature allows for analysis of fishing locations and the duration of fishing activities, helping to reduce the risk of overfishing and ensure compliance with national and international regulations for sustainable fishing practices.

Sulaiman Al Ali, Chief Commercial Officer of Yahsat, expressed the company’s commitment to customer-centric innovation, providing efficient and affordable technology tailored to the day-to-day needs of businesses. The new MarineStar software aims to give users a competitive advantage in the marine communications market, offering unrivaled capabilities. Yahsat is dedicated to developing state-of-the-art technological solutions that advance the maritime and fishing industries and contribute to the growth of a sustainable blue economy.

Thuraya, has also entered into a partnership with Cobham SATCOM to offer a range of next-generation broadband products for land, aeronautical, and maritime users. The agreement, announced on Monday, designates Cobham as a primary distributor, on a non-exclusive basis, for Thuraya’s Next Generation Broadband Products (NGBP) for a minimum period of five years.

The partnership will come into effect with the commencement of commercial operations on Thuraya 4-NGS, which is expected to be launched in the second half of 2023. According to the companies, the agreement has the potential to generate over $80 million in service revenue for Thuraya.

Ali Al Hashemi, CEO of Yahsat, expressed satisfaction with the agreement, highlighting Cobham’s strong commitment to the success of the Thuraya 4-NGS program. He stated that the partnership allows them to leverage Cobham’s unique capabilities and expertise, enhancing the value they can jointly deliver to distribution partners and end customers.

This collaboration between Thuraya and Cobham aims to provide advanced broadband solutions and expand their offerings in the land, aeronautical, and maritime sectors.

Lockheed Martin has developed a satellite-based augmentation system that leverages both GPS and Europe’s Galileo

Lockheed Martin’s vice president of navigation systems, Andre Trotter said that the availability of a new GPS navigation signal for civilian users is creating market opportunities in so-called satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS) that countries around the world are developing or upgrading to support transportation and other industries.

Six GPS 3 satellites that broadcast the L1C signal have been launched since 2018, the most recent one last week. GPS 3 is a modernized version of the U.S. military’s Global Positioning System satellites that broadcast positioning, navigation and timing signals. Compared to earlier generations, the GPS 3 satellites provide military users extra protection from jamming attacks but one of its most significant features is the L1C signal for civilian users that is interoperable with Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites.

Lockheed Martin has built 10 GPS 3 satellites under a 2008 contract from the U.S. Air Force, and will produce at least 10 more GPS 3F, a more advanced version.

“The company developed what it calls a 2nd generation SBAS that takes advantage of both GPS L1/L5 and Galileo E1/E5 signals to provide more accurate navigation and positioning, and reduce dependence on any one system,” Trotter told SpaceNews.

Lockheed Martin in September won a $1.18 billion 19-year contract to develop and operate the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SouthPAN) for the governments of Australia and New Zealand. The system is expected to be operational by 2028. “There is a significant amount of testing that must go on in order for the signals to be certified for different types of use, whether that be safety-of-life or commercial aircraft operations,” Trotter said.

Lockheed Martin’s SBAS broadcasts on two frequencies to augment signals from GPS and Galileo. 

“We are currently broadcasting the dual-frequency multiple constellation SBAS signal as part of SouthPAN,” Trotter said. “As additional GPS 3 and GPS 3F satellites are launched, service will improve even further.”

Winning the SouthPAN contract “could lead to more opportunities, as we have the ability to expand this enabling technology globally,” he said. “We are having discussions with other potential international customers. We also expect that more benefits will be realized as we bring in users and learn about new applications of the technology.” 

The SouthPAN system, for example, will improve accuracy from the current 5 to 10 meters, to about 10 centimeters, he said. More precise navigation and positioning data, Trotter said, is in high demand for commercial aviation, precision agriculture, maritime tracking, and the operation of drones and unmanned vehicles.

The U.S. SBAS is known as the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). Europe’s is called EGNOS, or European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service. Several countries have implemented SBAS systems, including Japan and India, and more are in development. 

In the SouthPAN system, an SBAS payload is hosted on an Inmarsat geostationary Earth orbit communications satellite, which rebroadcasts the augmentation messages to user receivers. Lockheed Martin operates a tracking, telemetry and control ground station in Uralla, New South Wales. Spain-based GMV will develop SouthPAN’s data processing and control centers.

Dish Network and others are pushing for permission to use 12 GHz spectrum for 5G as according to them, the SpaceX’s study on how it would severely disrupt its broadband customers is “scientifically and logically flawed.”

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition, which includes the satellite TV broadcaster and a mix of telcos, public interest groups and trade associations, said the study draws nationwide conclusions from a “single cherry-picked” area that is “among the most unfavorable geographies to analyze” interference.

The coalition also said SpaceX’s broadband company Starlink was spreading misinformation by telling customers their service cannot coexist with plans to use 12 GHz frequencies for a high-power 5G network.

The Federal Communications Commission has received nearly 100,000 comments amid Starlink’s call to customers to urge the agency to reject Dish Network’s 12 GHz proposal.

“This tactic, which is commonly used by Elon Musk, is not only disingenuous, but it promulgates an anti-5G narrative that is harmful to American consumers who deserve greater competition, connectivity options and innovation,” the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition said a statement. 

“It also stands to threaten America’s global leadership in the 5G and technology sector as other countries outpace the nation in delivering next-generation services.”

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition pointed to earlier interference studies commissioned by RS Access, a spectrum holding company that is one of the group’s members, which estimated a nationwide 5G network would cause interference to less than 1% of terminals used by non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite operators.

SpaceX declined to comment but has previously refuted these studies, which were conducted by engineering firm RKF Engineering Solutions.

Conflicting analysis

Both RS Access and Dish Network have licenses in the 12 GHz band that they are seeking to upgrade for high-speed terrestrial mobile services.

The 12 GHz band is part of the Ku-band spectrum that Starlink, OneWeb and other satellite operators use to connect with user terminals.

RS Access told the FCC in May that 5G wireless broadband in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band “can readily coexist” with NGSO “fixed satellite service deployments, which use 10.7-12.7 GHz for downlink.”

However, SpaceX said June 21 that tests it conducted in Las Vegas, United States showed how Starlink would become unusable for most Americans if the FCC allowed high-power mobile services in the 12 GHz band.

Starlink users would experience harmful interference 77% of the time, according to SpaceX’s study, and total outage of services 74% of the time.

SpaceX said its analysis underlined various inaccuracies and incorrect assumptions made in RFK’s studies. 

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition took issue with how SpaceX’s results were generated from the Las Vegas partial economic area (PEA), in “contrast to the nationwide simulation submitted by RKF.”

SpaceX said it chose this area because it is a market that Dish Network has targeted for its first mobile operations.

But the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition said this PEA’s “unique topology and morphology” makes it ten times as unfavorable to assess 5G and satellite coexistence as the national average.

The group said SpaceX’s study also “grossly distorts the 5G network configuration to create interference with NGSO terminals.”

It said: “If the assumptions SpaceX uses in Las Vegas are extrapolated nationwide, they would necessitate the deployment of over 600,000 macro 12 GHz sites across the country.”

This compares with the 67,000 sites AT&T currently uses for its nationwide network.

The coalition added that SpaceX’s Las Vegas analysis also assumes a higher level of service in urban and suburban areas than previously indicated.

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition’s statement comes a week after the FCC gave Starlink permission June 30 to use part of the 12 GHz band to connect vehicles, boats and aircraft on the move — in addition to fixed locations — subject to various conditions.

Dish Network and RS Access had argued against the approval, which the FCC said does not prejudge a decision on their 5G deployment plans.

Starlink announced a maritime-focused service plan for U.S. customers July 7, which offers up to 350 megabits per second download speeds while at sea for $5,000 a month and a one-time $10,000 hardware cost for two terminals.

Starlink Maritime currently advertises a latency rate of under 99 milliseconds, compared with 20-40 milliseconds for its other service plans. 

The maritime service also currently only covers coastal waters, with broadband coverage slated for elsewhere in the fourth quarter of 2022, and across seas globally in the first quarter of 2023.