Share: Vessel Detection Service

Satellite imagery has shown to be very useful when wanting to monitor large ocean areas for vessel activity. KSAT has provided end-users for more that a decade and a half with strategically important information on the presence of vessels, their position, speed, heading and behaviour. Detections in the satellite images are fused with other data sources, identifying the detected vessels and highlighting non-reporting targets.

Vessels engaged in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, smuggling or trafficking of goods or people, or piracy often turn off or tamper with their transponders in an attempt to hide their behavior. 

KSAT uses Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to detect signatures of vessels at sea. SAR does not require a cooperative signal from the vessel. When used in combination with Automatic Identification System (AIS) data streams it is possible to identify vessels in the satellite image, but also to detect vessels which should, by law, be broadcasting an AIS signal – but for some reason are not.

Information about vessel position, speed and heading is provided in a comprehensive report to the end-user shortly after the image is acquired. In a satellite image one can also detect vessel activity i.e. in closed areas as used for monitoring of IUU fishing.

The same technique of combining SAR and AIS is also used for identification of vessles causing oil slicks, accidents or illegal dumping.

For several years now, KSAT has been supporting the fight against IUU fishing through its industry-leading vessel detection service.  IUU fishing is a worldwide problem and requires a genuinely global response to combat it and KSAT uses all the available, suitable, satellites as a virtual constellation to detect vessels which may be fishing illegally.


Automatic Identification System, AIS: The International Maritime Organization's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires all passenger ships and international vessels with a gross tonnage of 300 or more to be fitted with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitter, which broadcasts information about the vessels. These transmissions can be read by polar-orbiting satellites, and KSAT receives data streams from a number of commercial AIS satellites and Norwegian government satellites, including sensors on the International Space Station.

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