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DLR and AWI test satellite-based methods for improving maritime navigation

11 October 2013

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The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is working on a satellite-based system for substantially improving ship navigation in ice-affected waters.

The Earth observation satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X provide the high-resolution images needed to make this possible. Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) - the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research based in Bremerhaven - are currently on their way to Antarctica on board the research vessel 'Polarstern' to test the practicality of this technique.

The decline of Arctic sea ice during the summer period will open new routes for the shipping sector, permitting the development of fossil fuel resources and also cutting the travel time for navigation by commercial vessels. But the risks presented by these new maritime routes are high; freezing temperatures, storms and icebergs pose a challenge for both crews and ships. In the event of an emergency situation, search and rescue missions would be significantly set back by the lack of marine infrastructure in these regions. In addition, there is insufficient real-time data that ships could use for navigating through polar oceans.

DLR is developing satellite-based systems geared towards enhancing safety along maritime routes. They are based on high-resolution images provided by the radar satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X. The satellites transmit the images directly to the DLR ground station in Neustrelitz, where they are processed in near real time.

Source: German Aerospace Center (DLR)

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