Satellites to shine light on dark ships


A constellation of private satellite providers aim to ensure the shady days of ships going dark fade into oblivion.

French startup UnseenLabs has unveiled plans to launch up to six more ship-tracking cube-sats next year to build on the success of its first satellite launched in August. The company’s satellite can detect radio-frequency signals from ships attempting to avoid detection who have switched off their automatic identification system (AIS) transponders, something in the  headlines this year with Iranian tankers skirting sanctions by going dark.

UnseenLabs uses orbiting sensors to track maritime traffic and has mapped out plans to have 20 satellites in space whereby it will be able to revisit any ship to keep track of its position on an hourly basis.

Other companies offering this radio-frequency ship monitoring service from space include Luxembourg-based Kleos Space and Reston, Virginia-based HawkEye 360.

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