Press Release

COM DEV to Demonstrate Advanced Space-Based AIS Capability

By SpaceRef Editor
October 19, 2007
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COM DEV International Ltd. (TSX: CDV), a leading manufacturer of space hardware subsystems, today announced that the Company has secured a space flight opportunity to demonstrate an advanced AIS data detection capability from space. AIS, or Automatic Identification System, is a VHF broadcast system required aboard major marine vessels to locate and identify ships at sea. COM DEV has developed satellite payload technology to solve the traditional challenges associated with space-based collection of AIS data, and is committed to commercializing it following a series of planned tests.

“Space-based collection of AIS data offers tremendous cost and performance advantages over existing methods of monitoring marine traffic,” said John Keating, CEO of COM DEV. “After more than two years of work we have developed a very promising solution that is ready to be validated under real world conditions. The potential market for this technology is significant, and we believe we are well positioned to become world leaders.”

The AIS data transmitted by over 68,000 ships worldwide is now collected primarily from other ships and land-based receivers with a limited range of approximately 50 nautical miles. A reliable satellite-based collection system would eliminate the 50-mile limitation as well as the need to build large numbers of ground stations along the world’s coastlines. Existing AIS transmissions can be received from space, but the primary technical barrier to a space-based system has been “de-colliding” the cacophony of signals received simultaneously from hundreds or even thousands of vessels in a satellite field of view.

COM DEV has developed an advanced, proprietary de-collision process (patent pending) that is capable of separating the multitude of AIS signals into meaningful information. The satellite payloads, which would fly in low-earth orbit, would make immediate use of over US $300 million of AIS equipment already installed by the global shipping industry since mandated in 2004 by the International Maritime Organization. The payloads would include an onboard encryption system to maintain data security.

COM DEV is conducting a number of tests to validate its AIS technology, beginning with an aircraft trial in November 2007. The next stage will involve a prototype test in orbit aboard a nanosatellite currently under construction at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Laboratory (UTIAS/SFL) targeted for launch in the second quarter of calendar 2008. The final test will utilize a dedicated microsatellite capable of demonstrating the full commercial viability of the technology.

The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND), Project Polar Epsilon, has signed a small contract with COM DEV to obtain data which it will use to evaluate the results of the trials to assess the suitability of the advanced AIS system for operational requirements. Polar Epsilon is a DND capital project to exploit space-based capabilities in support of Canadian Arctic and marine surveillance. DND is especially interested in the potential for space-based AIS technology to assist with its objective of monitoring shipping traffic in the Canadian Arctic.

Maritime and coastal countries around the globe will have the opportunity to evaluate the system capability as well, and several international agencies have already expressed an interest in observing the trial results.

COM DEV anticipates that there is a market among various satellite service providers for over 40 AIS payloads that could be in orbit by 2015. The processed AIS data from these service providers would be of interest to national governments, port authorities, coast guards, search and rescue organizations, shipping companies, and insurance companies, among others.

For additional information about AIS, please see the “Backgrounder” attached to this press release.


COM DEV International Ltd. ( is a leading global designer and manufacturer of space hardware subsystems. With facilities in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, COM DEV manufactures advanced products and subsystems that are sold to major satellite prime contractors for use in communications, space science, remote sensing and military satellites.

COM DEV and COM DEV USA are registered trademarks of COM DEV International Ltd. This news release may contain certain forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from results indicated in any forward-looking statements. The Company cautions that, among other things, in view of the rapid changes in communications markets and technologies, and other risks including the cost and market acceptance of the Company’s new products, the level of individual customer procurements and competitive product offerings and pricing, and general economic circumstances, the Company’s business prospects may be materially different from forward-looking statements made by the Company.

SpaceRef staff editor.