This Antenna Helps Tracks Ships from Space

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It may look like a piece of artwork, but this small antenna is actually powerful enough to help track ships from space.  Built compact enough to fit onto a minisatellite, this antenna successfully tracked Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals emitted from commercial sea vessels during a test run abroad the International Space Station in 2010.

AIS signals continually broadcast updated identification and navigation data but the VHS system that it relies on only has a horizontal signal range of about 40 nautical miles (74 km), making earth-based tracking of open sea traffic difficult.  The vertical reach of these signals is far greater, extending into space, thereby making satellite-based tracking a more efficient solution.

Compact_AIS_antenna

More:

Compact AIS antenna.  European Space Agency, January 15, 2016.

Dousset, T., Sarrazin, J., Lepage, A. C., Diez, H., & RENARD, C. (2012). Compact patch antenna for automatic identification system (AIS). In International Symposium of Antenna Technology and Applied Electromagnetics (ANTEM) (pp. 1-5).

Map of global ship traffic based on AIS signals detected from orbit. Source: LuxSpace, 2016.

Map of global ship traffic based on AIS signals detected from orbit. Source: LuxSpace, 2016.


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