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exactEarth Ltd., a company jointly owned by COM DEV International Ltd and HISDESAT Servicios Estratégicos S.A., is a data services company that leverages microsatellite (Miniaturized satellite ) technology to deliver vessel monitoring solutions[1] . Founded in 2009, exactEarth’s initial service, exactAIS™, is a global vessel tracking and maritime domain monitoring system based on space-based AIS (Automatic Identification System) detection technology.


Based in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, exactEarth was established as a wholly-owned subsidiary of COM DEV for the purpose of making Satellite-AIS data services available to the global maritime market. In August 2010, the exactAIS service was launched[2] , providing continuous coverage of the whole globe with vessel updates occurring multiple times per day. It has operated mostly on a trial basis in order to ensure quality standards are being met. exactEarth has partnered with Bell Data Services, Data Perceptions, KSAT Kongsberg Satellite Services, MDG, Via SAT and most notably SpaceQuest, Ltd. in order to attain data sources for AIS information.



exactAIS® provides a global capability for monitoring all AIS-equipped vessels using a satellite constellation and global network of ground stations. AIS messages are received at a data processing centre in Canada and the messages are then sent instantly to customers via a secure internet link. The messages are provided in one of several industry standard formats that are compatible with most existing AIS display systems. exactAIS™ streams the data securely and quickly, enabling customers to monitor any area of the planet for vessel traffic. All received AIS messages for an Area of Interest (AOI) are processed, providing data such as MMSI,Ship Location, Ship Course and Ship Speed. All data is also time-stamped and provided with each message.

In addition to complete global coverage, exactAIS™ captures thousands of distinct vessels in a single pass utilizing patented processing technology.

exactAIS™ provides global coverage today with additional satellites and ground stations being deployed in the coming months and years to continuously improve the refresh rate for the global maritime picture.

exactAIS Viewer[edit]

exactAIS™ Viewer is a web-based application to view all current vessel positions produced by the exactAIS™ service and plots them on a familiar set of GIS map layers. Users can selectively filter the display to only include ships or areas of interest around the world and also provides familiar navigational controls. Access to the system is provided by exactEarth through a web browser URL along with login credentials. Users can view vessel positions from the most recent 24 hour period along with a 5day historical track for each vessel (if available) and can also perform the following functions:

  • Global navigation using familiar controls
  • Zoom in/out
  • View Target Information
  • Track a specific Target
  • Filter the display to narrow targets of interest
  • Pre-loaded filters by Ship Type
  • Custom filters
  • Bookmarking of frequently accessed areas
  • Download a selected vessel's track of all position reports within last 14 days
  • Generate a Ship List report of all ships currently visible
  • Statistics on number of ships in view, Area of Interest, Filtered and Global

exactAIS Archive[edit]

exactEarth has been collecting operational AIS data from the exactAIS™ service since July 2010. All of this data is stored in an archive at a Toronto-based Data Processing Centre. Customers can purchase this historical data, which includes all AIS messages processed by the exactAIS™ service dating from July 5, 2010 up to 30 days prior to the current date and time.


  • Global archive of 300+ million Satellite AIS messages
  • Provides over 250 million individual maritime vessel locations
  • Coverage back to July 5, 2010

Historical data can be extracted using wide selection criteria, including:

  • Date and time range
  • Geographical Area
  • AIS message types
  • Ship MMSI list
  • Ship Type
  • Country
  • Delivered to suit needs.

Historical data is delivered via data files in the following formats:

  • NMEA0183 (No timestamps), NMEA V4.0 (Includes timestamps)
  • XML
  • KML includes a number of built-in Google Earth features and controls to facilitate playing of vessel movements for analytical purposes
  • CSV


Satellite AIS[edit]

Satellite AIS is an extension of existing AIS technology. AIS is an RF-based communications system designed primarily as a collision avoidance system for large SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) class vessels. By broadcasting key details over VHF every few seconds about their identification, current position, heading and speed, passing ships can select a safe course even when conditions prevent visual contact. Since 2004, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has required AIS transponders to be aboard all vessels that exceed 300 gross tons[3] . Over 70,000 ships worldwide have installed these transponders[4] at a combined cost of several hundred million dollars, making AIS one of the most successful maritime technology deployments of all time. While AIS has been deployed successfully, it suffers from a major limitation in that, due to the curvature of the Earth, its range is limited to approximately 50 nautical miles.

AIS, being an RF-based communications system, was never designed for reception of signals from space, however Satellite AIS greatly extends the range of the original system and creates many new application possibilities for competent maritime authorities. Visibility scope is significantly enhanced using Satellite AIS, creating increased maritime situational awareness well beyond the 50 nautical mile range from shore.

exactEarth’s Satellite AIS technology platform consists of a number of elements:

  • AIS Transponders The source of data for the exactAIS™ service is the AIS transponders that are already installed aboard 70,000 vessels worldwide. No changes to existing onboard equipment or procedures are required. In addition, new Search And Rescue Transponders are being equipped with AIS (SART-AIS).
  • Satellite Payloads Receivers designed to detect AIS signals from space will be part of the payload of a series of microsatellites. Several years of focused research and development have led to technology that is uniquely capable of “de-colliding” the signals received simultaneously from a large number of vessels, resulting in a high probability of detection.
  • Earth Stations A ground station located at Svalbard, Norway near the North Pole, is in place to receive data from the satellites as they pass overhead on every orbit - about once every 100 minutes. The downlinked data is then sent, fully encrypted, to the Data Processing Centre. Additional ground stations are in use around the world and new dedicated stations are under development to increase the speed of data flow.
  • Mission Operations Manages both the collection of the space-AIS data from the satellite network as well as the data set configuration and distribution as data feeds to the various customers around the world.
  • Data Processing Centre A secure computer facility processes and stores the data received from the Ground Station. This facility is a top tier data center with extremely high reliability, including redundant power, cooling, fire suppression and physical security systems.
  • Operations Centre The Operations Centre manages both the collection of the space-AIS data from the satellite network as well as the data set configuration and distribution as data feeds to the various customers around the world.
  • Customer Delivery The data is delivered to competent maritime authorities over encrypted data links, in the standard NMEA or OTH-Gold data format. Customers can select either a data interface with their existing display system, a web-based display, or a comprehensive, turnkey solution.


The exactEarth constellation is currently being deployed[5] . Over time, many satellites are expected to launch, first to achieve and then to maintain a global revisit time of less than 90 minutes. In 2012, the exactEarth constellation includes four satellites. With the launch of the fourth satellite, the constellation provides average revisit times better than 90 minutes for most of the Earth - at latitudes higher than about 40 degrees. This corresponds to over 10 observations per day anywhere on the planet - and even more at higher latitudes.


  1. ^ "exactEarth Company Profile". Bloomberg Business Week. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Allan, John (2011). "Redefining Maritime Security". GeoIntelligence: 18–22.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  3. ^ "Satellite Technology Bolsters Global Maritime Surveillance". Earth Imaging Journal. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Satellite Technology Bolsters Global Maritime Surveillance". Earth Imaging Journal. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  5. ^ "exactAIS Constellation Continues to Grow". Retrieved August 17, 2011. 
  • Earth Imaging Journal "Satellite Technology Bolsters Global Maritime Surveillance. October 2011
  • Bloomberg Business Week "exactEarth Profile"
  • GeoIntelligence "Redefining Maritime Security" March 2011
  • "exactAIS Constellation Continues to Grow" August 2011

External Links[edit]

Official Site [1]