KACST aims at developing several end-to-end systems to track mobile objects to serve the transportation and logistics sector in Saudi Arabia.
Sufun is a Satellite-Based Commercial Vessel Tracking System that collects standard signals of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) sent by all commercial vessels around the world. These signals contain critical information such as the vessel’s ID, speed, and status. Sufun develops a commercial payload that is launched onboard a satellite into a LEO orbit where it collects signals as it orbits Earth. The signals are stored onboard the satellite’s storage system and then sent to the ground station on every overpass. Once all this data is downloaded to the ground station, it gets decoded, cleaned, and then linked to vessels metadata to identify characteristics such as physical attributes and ownership of each vessel. This information is conveyed to customers in a user-friendly manner using a web-based interface.
The first payload of this type was launched onboard SaudiComSat-7 satellite in 2007 as the first Satellite-based AIS payload in the world. Then, in 2014, the second payload was launched onboard SaudiSat-4.
The two payloads are operational and collect millions of signals every day from more than 30,000 unique commercial vessels from all around the world giving the system an advantage compared to shore-based terrestrial AIS receivers. The system is being used by several organizations in the government and private sectors in Saudi Arabia.
In 2016, the daily satellite-based data has been complemented by terrestrial data. KACST has installed a terrestrial AIS receivers on one of its locations on the Arabian Gulf and participated in an international service to share this data with more than 70 countries in the world. At the same time, the IT infrastructure of the system has been upgraded to cope with the huge amount of data that needs proper processing and storage. Also, several features have been added to the system based on user requirements to provide a proper user experience, performance and usability wise.
Also in 2016, the team has provided detailed and specialized reports to various government committees regarding specific maritime incidents.