exactEarth, a subsidiary of Canadian satellite component manufacturer ComDev, has a small constellation of sensors in orbit that can detect the Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals broadcast by ships.
All vessels over 300 gross tons (and all passenger ships irrespective of size) are mandated to carry transponders that push out data that includes not just position, course, and speed, but also information about a ship's type, draught, cargo - even its eventual destination.
exactEarth is just one company exploiting this new market. This week at the Farnborough International Airshow, it signed a deal to commercialise new detection technology developed within a European Space Agency telecommunications project. The technology will be installed on two satellites to be manufactured by LuxSpace of Luxembourg.
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