Virtual AIS Beacons Employed in MH370 Search

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

October 22, 2014

Image courtesy of Vesper Marine

Image courtesy of Vesper Marine

Vesper Marine, a manufacturer of marine safety products and virtual Aids to Navigation (ATON), announced that its Virtual AIS Beacons are employed in the search for lost Malaysian airliner MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The international search team is a closely coordinated effort between United States-based Phoenix International, Dutch engineering company Fugro and the governments of Australia and Malaysia.

After an exhaustive period of mapping the ocean floor, the on-the-water search is focused on an area of ocean roughly twice the size of Massachusetts. Salvage vessels have deep-water, side-scan sonar arrays in tow at depths of approximately four miles below the surface and 300-500 feet above the seafloor. To reach these depths, a six-mile long tow cable is required. Vesper Marine’s Virtual AIS Beacons are used aboard each of the search vessels to virtually mark the cable and sonar arrays to provide electronic visibility and prevent other surface vessels and sub-surface tows from colliding with the equipment.

A virtual ATON is created when a special ATON signal is transmitted from one location to mark another remote point. The Vesper Marine Virtual AIS Beacons used in the search send signals that are received by existing AIS units installed on all large vessels operating in international waters. AIS marks will be displayed along the length and width of the tow cable on the receiving boats’ ECDIS, chart plotters and other AIS displays. Nearby vessels’ onboard electronics alert crews if they are on a collision course with the marked navigational hazard allowing them to change course and avoid the search equipment.

“The terrible tragedy of MH370 has touched the world and for the families and loved ones of those lost we all want the search to be conducted in the safest way possible,” said Jeff Robbins, CEO, Vesper Marine. “An operation of this scale and complexity involves many people and sophisticated technologies. We are proud that our Virtual AIS Beacons have been chosen to enhance safety during the search and we are honored to be part of the effort.”

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