RF data used to identify boats 'running dark'

Thursday, 09 June, 2022

RF data used to identify boats 'running dark'

Kleos Space, a satellite, radio frequency reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) and mission-as-a-service provider (MaaS), has announced a co-operative research and development agreement with the US Naval Surface Warfare Center Division (NSWC Crane) for joint data experimentation.

Kleos will provide its radio frequency (RF) geolocation data in realistic test scenarios to improve maritime domain awareness for real-world challenges, including sanctions reporting, embargo, transshipment monitoring, search and rescue, resource management, fisheries control, smuggling and border control.

Commercial ship-tracking services rely upon satellite collection of AIS transceiver signals, which can be received from space with some limitations. However, AIS is easily manipulated: the equipment aboard the ship can be tampered with to display a false location, name, MMSI, flag registry and other identifiers. The techniques used for AIS spoofing and falsification grow more sophisticated all the time. More commonly, a suspect vessel simply ‘goes dark’ by turning off its AIS transceiver.

Kleos’s satellites orbit the globe in clusters of four satellites; each cluster of four can triangulate the position of a received signal, yielding accurate RF geolocation data. If a vessel turns off its AIS transceiver, or simply does not have one — like a smuggling vessel or small fishing vessel — it could still be found by its other RF transmissions.

The partnership is part of the Office of Naval Research’s SCOUT campaign, a series of experiments centred on new solutions for the counter-narcotics campaign in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. The first phase of the SCOUT exercises will begin mid-2022.

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