Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) for Innovative Terrestrial Monitoring and Maritime Surveillance (SAR with AIS) Project that started in 2018 aims to improve terrestrial monitoring and maritime surveillance over high priority areas through simultaneous input of SAR imaging and AIS data. Aside from these, the data can also be used for various applications such as disaster management, environmental and agricultural monitoring, land cover classification, among others.
About SAR with AIS
Territorial security and monitoring remain to be some of the priorities of the Filipino administration. Today, the country faces threats of dispute and terrorism aside from issues persisting from environmental degradation and biological and natural hazards. Dir. Jay Batongbacal of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea states that the Philippines needs to respond to prevailing threats with newer and more natural means (ABS-CBN News, 2019). Although Chinese forces along the coasts of the West Philippine Sea are not proven to be increasing, the area must be continuously checked as the security and sovereignty of the Filipinos depend vastly on the defense strategies employed by the government. PNP Chief Director General Albayalde said continuous border patrols serve against illegal drugs and terrorism and modernization of PNP’s maritime units shall enable the enhancement of seaborne defense and protocols (Caliwan, 2019). He says that completely sealing off the Philippines, an archipelago with one of the world’s longest coastlines, will be difficult.
Making S-band SAR data available to national government units is not only a leap for the Philippine space economy but also for the Philippines’ nation building. Another country is benefitting from the NovaSAR satellite: Australia, through The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Centre for Earth Observation, has been subscribed to the NovaSAR satellite since its launch in September 2018, allowing the country to acquire data over its territory, including regions of Asia Pacific, and elsewhere necessary. The country is one of the largest users of Earth Observation from Space Data worldwide (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Australia, n.d.). With the satellite’s SAR feature, CSIRO aims to build analyses and applications on agricultural practices, land use, water cycles, waterways, and coastal mapping among such. Specifically, CSIRO has set the following projects with the use of S-band SAR data:
- Rapid natural disaster identification, monitoring and assessment including after cyclones, floods, earthquakes, pollution and oil spills
- Improved infrastructure and agriculture mapping
- Monitoring crops and assessing factors such as plant biomass and soil moisture
- Detection of illegal deforestation
- Flood risk assessment
- Monitoring shipping routes and detecting illegal activity
At present, there are still no progress reports of Australia’s efforts supported by the NovaSAR satellite.
Through the strengthening of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the Philippines, the Department of Science and Technology – Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) funded a research and development project to progress the country’s efforts in national monitoring through the reception of space data. The Philippine Earth Data Resource and Observation (PEDRO) Center R&D project then established a satellite Ground Receiving Station (GRS) facility located at the DOST-ASTI premises in Diliman, Quezon City. Since the project’s birth on December 2016, the PEDRO Center aims to support, strengthen, and complement government initiatives through space technology; provide high quality Earth observation data in support of research and development; increase adoption of satellite data among the national and local government; and sustain the advancement of the Filipino in space technology.
SAR satellites with Automatic Identification System (AIS) can provide better monitoring services to the Philippines. NovaSAR-S is a small Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mission designed for low-cost programmes using a combination of the latest commercial off-the-shelf technologies which developed by Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd. (SSTL). It utilizes S-band frequency specifically in the 3.1-3.3 GHz with a peak RF power of 1.8 kW. Its 400 kg mass has a design life of seven (7) years at an optimum orbital altitude of 580 km. It has a resolution of 6- 30m depending on the imaging mode and the image products may contain single, dual, tri or quad polarimetric. In addition to its SAR payload, it also carries an Automatic Identification System (AIS) that can track ships equipped with active AIS receivers. The satellite will be operated by SSTL, but the payload capacity will be shared between mission partners (currently British Government, Undisclosed Government not conflicting with the Philippines).
Through the PEDRO Center Ground Receiving Station (GRS) located in the Advanced Science and Technology Institute, this enables us to have a direct access to the radar satellite missions and distribute both SAR images and AIS data from NovaSAR to its target users and beneficiaries.
On October 13, 2020, the SAR with AIS Project was officially launched to the public. It also featured a demonstration of the Surveillance, Identification and Assessment using Satellites (SIYASAT) Portal, the official distribution portal of the project.
The SIYASAT Portal caters to 75 registered users from several government agencies that can access the portal. Many task requests cover West Philippine Sea, Scarborough Shoal, Palawan and Metro Manila region for ship and structure detection. The SIYASAT Portal also gives access to 824 images covering our country’s land territory. There are also image captures on some parts of Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Palau, Vietnam, China, Australia, and South Africa.
Archived AIS data can now also be visualized on the SIYASAT Portal. It also allows for simultaneous visualization of available radar and AIS data. The SAR with AIS Project is working on the integration of ship and object detection to the portal.