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Dstl spots 'ghost' ships with satellite-based SAR

22nd July 2021 - 13:31 GMT | by Harry Lye in London

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Computer-generated image of NovaSAR-1 in orbit. (Photo: SSTL)

A UK Defence Science Technology Laboratory project is exploring how satellite-based synthetic aperture radar can be used to spot vessels that have disabled their Automatic Identification System.

Researchers at the Defence Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl) are accessing synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capabilities on the NovaSAR satellite, designed and built by SSTL, to research how the UK armed forces can improve tracking of commercial and military vessels involved in potentially nefarious activity.

SAR allows satellites to peer through the weather to spot a ship at night or during the day. Once a vessel is located, it can be checked against other databases to see if its Automatic Identification System (AIS) is enabled.

Ships of 300t or more gross tonnage are legally required to be fitted with AIS. However, the system can be …

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