A frequent comment heard at the ICPC plenary session held in Dubai last month was the potential for AIS technology in cable protection.  One problem with AIS is that small fishing boats are not likely to have the equipment on board to allow them to be tracked. 

Now, two companies, exactEarth and SRT have announced plans to develop and commercialise technology that will for the first time enable low power AIS transceivers of the types being deployed on small commercial and leisure vessels worldwide to be tracked from space, thereby enabling global tracking.

AIS is a VHF technology primarily optimised and designed for high intensity terrestrial-based tracking with reliable range typically limited to approximately 50 nautical miles. High powered Class A type transceivers are able to be tracked globally by the existing exactEarth AIS satellite network, however due to a variety of complex reasons, transmissions from standard Class B and Identifier type devices cannot currently be reliably tracked from space. Since May 2013 last year, exactEarth and SRT have pooled their capabilities to develop a new technology called ABSEA™ which, when embedded within standard low powered AIS transceivers, enables their transmissions to be received by exactEarth satellites. This enables wide area extended tracking capability of small vessels fitted with ABSEA enabled transceivers and the provision of valuable supplementary AIS tracking data to existing terrestrial networks with incomplete and or standard coverage limits.

Under the terms of the agreement, SRT and exactEarth jointly own the ABSEA technology and will co-operate to commercialize the tracking data. SRT will receive a share of the revenues generated from data sales. The first ABSEA enabled products are expected to be deployed later this year.

Momentum for AIS tracking of fishing boats is building, more to halt illegal fishing than to protect submarine cables.  The World Wildlife Fund recently called for AIS tracking of all fishing boats as a measure to deal with illegal fishing.