Navy Researches Find Way to Track AIS 'Silent' Vessels

Navy Times
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
'Rough Rhine' Trials: Photo credit USN

US Office of Naval Research modify existing technologies to make a new-generation tracking system of the AIS 'silent'

The Navy will soon get a leg by using 'Rough Rhino', an electronic system for locating illegal fisherman, drug smugglers, pirates, human traffickers and others at sea who don’t want to be found and thus switch off their Automatic Identification System (AIS).

Today’s technology only allows ships to track other vessels not transmitting AIS if they are within the horizon, or about 25 to 35 miles, according to Dr. Michael Pollock, director for the electronics, sensors and networks division at ONR. To see beyond that, ships must get an assist from an airborne asset, such as a P-3C Orion long-range aircraft.

Rough Rhino, however, will give Navy ships the ability to see evasive vessels from much farther away, finding the vessels with radar and using optics to identify them. Pollock said the software program will give sailors a clearer maritime domain awareness picture than their radar.

The new technology was tested in an operational environment off the coast of West Africa as part of the recent African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership exercise.

Host nations Senegal, Cape Verde and Gambia used the system to track more than 600 illegal fisherman, drug smugglers and human traffickers a day, and boarded 24 ships during AMLEP. The system was installed temporarily on the frigate Simpson as well as two Senegalese ships during the exercise.


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