AIS Receiver

In the 3. quarter of 2012, Flying Laptop got an AIS receiver including an antenna as a new payload. This payload was developed, built and tested by the DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen. This system can receive AIS signals from ships. Before continuing with the introduction of the payload, we would like to introduce the AIS system, itself.

Since January 1st 2004, it has been mandatory for all ships bigger than 300 GRT to run an AIS transmitter in international waters. Since July 1st 2008, all ships in national waters bigger than 500 GRT also need to run an AIS transmitter.

The Automatic Identification System, AIS, is a system designed to supervise marine traffic. In times of increasing ship traffic, a system like this is indispensable. AIS shall be used for the following:

  • Preventing collisions

  • Providing information about ships and their cargo to adjoining coastal states

  • Serving as an appliance for landside surveillance

The system works as follows:

Ships will send messages in regular time intervals. Among other data, these messages contain position, route, and velocity of the ship, the ship name and the call sign. If a ship has an AIS receiver on board it can use the signals for better planning and decision-making.

These AIS signals can also be received from space. In a last-minute cooperation between DLR and the Institute of Space Systems of the University of Stuttgart, an AIS receiver including an antenna could be accomodated within the satellite. According to the slogan "form follows function" the unusual form of the AIS receiver housing was created.

AIS receiver

Other satellites are already recording AIS data and tracking the route of ships. The novelty with Flying Laptop is that few satellites have both an AIS receiver and a camera system onboard. This created the possibility of checking how strongly the system is used and how well the received signals correspond with the real position of the ships.