Radar Harvesting

We are developing a technique to provide low-cost data on vessel activities using information from ships’ existing navigation radar systems.

Understanding the distribution and dynamics of vessels at sea is a major challenge, especially in areas with many small vessels that lack transponder systems. Existing observation systems are often  prohibitively expensive, or fail to detect small vessels not equipped with AIS.

We essentially use the ship as a sensor platform by adding onboard radar data storage. Output of radar targets is a standard feature of ship radar systems; it is only a question of changing the settings to write this information to a storage device.

We expand this data using statistical models to fulfill different needs, including:

  • inventory fleets of small or unregulated vessels
  • predict time periods and locations of high vessel activity
  • identify uses of the maritime estate (e.g. fishing or transit areas)


Our funding allows us to provide this service at little or no cost to the vessel.


System requirements

  • Vessel with a radar system: We work with many types of vessels, including cargo ships, large research vessels, and smaller outboard boats.
  • Need for low-cost data: We can tailor the output to specific objectives and help train staff to interpret and use the information.

The radar harvesting system can be implemented at different scales, from addressing specific  information gaps in priority areas (e.g. marine reserves), to understanding certain patterns of use (e.g. densities of recreational fishing boats) to building data sets on marine and coastal users throughout national waters.