Charting the Future of Maritime Communications: VHF Data Exchange System (VDES)

Currently, international voyaging ships are fitted with the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which is an automatic tracking system that uses transceivers on ships for collision avoidance by allowing the maritime authorities to track and monitor vessel movements using broadcast information on identification, location, course, and speed. 

The VDES has several advantages over the current AIS system, such as greater bandwidth, range, accuracy, capacity, security, flexibility, and global coverage, making it an attractive solution for maritime operators seeking to enhance communication and operational efficiency.

Expected to progressively replace the current Automatic Identification System (AIS), here’s a look at how VDES is poised to revolutionise maritime operations. 

Continuation from Terrestrial VDES

A*STAR’s I2R and ST Engineering had previously developed the VDES Mobile Station, which can achieve up to 32 times higher data rate than the current AIS system. Supported by terrestrial VDES, the VDES Mobile Station enables higher data throughput as well as higher quality data delivery among ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore two-way communications.

With the Lumelite-4 launch on 22 April 2023, the full operational capability of the VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) with both terrestrial and satellite components can be showcased. This satellite VDES complements the terrestrial VDES to enable a more robust maritime communications service, allowing as real-time maritime traffic and asset tracking for better predictive analysis, as well as secured and reliable ship-to-ship or ship-to-port communication for enhanced navigational safety and port efficiencies. This is not just in coastal areas but also in high seas and in areas without terrestrial network.

Key Applications and Benefits
VDES transforms maritime communications by enabling:
  • Real-time extended area maritime traffic and asset tracking
  • Maritime traffic communications for ship reporting, search & rescue, and more
  • Enhanced navigational safety and port efficiency
  • Contributions to decarbonisation efforts in the maritime industry
Additions to VDES 
Leverage capabilities in radio frequency and antenna designs, A*STAR’s I2R continued to experiment with compact satellite payloads and ground terminals designs. 

Towards Commercialization and Validation

Efforts are underway to commercialise VDES ship and satellite terminals in collaboration with industry partners. Validation and demonstration of maritime use cases further underscore the transformative potential of VDES in maritime communications and operations.