Low earth orbit satellite network to improve ship safety in Arctic waters

Ship navigating Arctic waters will be aided by MARIOT satellite navigation. Credit: MARIOT

A research project called Maritime Internet of Things (MARIOT) will develop a low earth orbit satellite network based on VHF Data Exchange System technology (VDES) to establish a stable, low-cost data connection to improve maritime safety and navigation in the Arctic Ocean.

A total of 50 small satellites will be launched to provide ice chart data to ships at sea to improve navigation for ships in rough seas and safety for the crew on board. The first satellite is expected to be launched in 2022.

MARIOT is a joint project led by Danish satellite operator Sternula and made up of satcom developers GateHouse, Space Inventor, and Satlab as well as Aalborg University. The Danish Meteorological Institute will also participate in the project, which will focus on improved communication and navigation services in the Arctic Ocean.

“Today, the satellite communication networks used by ships in high-latitude seas are often expensive, inept for small amounts of data, and, in some cases, do not even cover seas in remote regions,” said Per Koch, business development manager, GateHouse. “This is an issue, especially in the Arctic Ocean, where optimised navigation services can significantly reduce the length of shipping routes.”

“VDES standard was assigned global radio frequencies last year, we now have the opportunity to launch the first global VDES network improving navigation services and security for ships sailing through treacherous passages,” Koch explained.

VDES technology is the second generation of the Automatic Identification System (AIS). AIS has a reach of 30 nautical miles and is restricted to transfer on only certain types of data. VDES will enable global connectivity through satellite networks as well as efficient transfer of more data types.

According to the developers of MARIOT the VDES network can also be useful to maritime security services for coastal monitoring. The maritime industry can also use the network to monitor marine engines and critical equipment onboard.