Ice Shipping 4.0. - Digital data from space on board

by Lasse Rabenstein on 2017-04-18

It’s not science fiction anymore. Fully automated 24/7 near-real-time ice image information support for tactical decision making in polar waters is available now. The Drift+Noise support system includes:

An operational satellite image data base

The earth’s surface is continuously scanned by a variety of sensors. For instance, each of ESA’s two Sentinel-1 radar satellites orbits the earth more than 14 times per day. Since they operate in a polar orbit, high latitude regions are covered more frequently than others and image updates are possible more than once a day.

Communication lines between ships, satellites, and the internet

With a ship’s position, time, and heading – available via the AIS system – images of the ice can be delivered to the bridge as fast as 2 hours after satellite recording.

Standardized image visualization

The satellite ice images are available in various formats. From geocoded standard formats readable by on-board viewing systems (e.g. an Electronic Chart System) to image formats displayable on every standard computer or tablet.

High performance computing systems

Fast data delivery is ensured by replacing cumbersome manual processes with automated systems able to handle the steps in seconds:

  • image enhancement
  • matching of data with the right position
  • fitting the data into the right format and size
  • combining these data with other data sources

Our ice map service combines the information from many satellite platforms and data streams.

data streams

These streams are continuously monitored in order to provide new suitable data the instant they are produced so that they can be smoothly integrated with on-board operational procedures.

The following animation shows the ice image support for a research cruise north of Svalbard.

image support animation

As the ship cruised through the ice, satellite radar images were available on board automatically. These images were used to spot open cracks which served as “highways” in the ice, saving up to 50% of the anticipated passage duration.