Central Florida Business
Shipping and handling: Harris technology tracks cargo in real time
A Harris-developed system of satellites will track ships in real time.
On Jan. 14, SpaceX rebounded from the September launch-pad explosion of one of its rockets by successfully launching a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Elon Musk’s company wasn’t the only one with a lot riding on the mission. The cargo aboard the rocket included satellites equipped with the first four tracking receivers for a new maritime shiptracking network developed by Melbourne-based Harris Corp. and a Canadian partner, exactEarth, of Cambridge, Ontario.
The entire system will include about 60 receivers orbiting the Earth aboard satellites, plus one attached to the International Space Station. Once fully deployed, it will be the first real-time system monitoring the movements of around 400,000 cargo and passenger vessels around the world, Harris says.
Current tracking systems are limited. Land-based towers reach only about 50 miles off shore, and smaller satellite networks can’t cover the whole globe at once. In addition, current systems lag in collecting and transmitting data (waiting for a satellite to pass overhead takes time). Currently, Harris says, it takes an average of 45 minutes for customers to get whatever information they are looking for.
The new system will provide a continuous stream of data that Harris and exactEarth can use to plan more efficient shipping routes, spot suspicious encounters at sea and more. “You move from forensics to real-time analytics. That lets you get into predictive analytics,” says David Mottarella, a senior manager in Harris’ space and intelligence systems segment.
The maritime-tracking system, and a similar airplane-tracking system that Harris has developed, are part of the space-and-defense giant’s effort to develop new lines of business along with the company’s six core franchises: Tactical communications, geospatial, weather, avionics, space and air-traffic management.
“We’re finding missions every day that we can do,” Mottarella says. “We’re scratching the surface.”
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