Blog Archive

First VDES Base Station Installed

The Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT), a division of Armscor SOC Ltd., continued South Africa’s strong maritime legacy by installing and operating the first VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) base station in the world. This effort forms part of the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) technology work, supporting the South African Navy.

IMT established the VDES base station using the VDES1000 module provided exclusively by CML Microcircuits and its technology partner, Stone Three. The VDES1000 module integrates seven VHF receivers and one VHF transmitter with a linear high-efficiency Power Amplifier (PA) into a small form factor, which drastically simplifies new product development.

The VDES equipment, commissioned on site at IMT’s offices in Simons Town on 10 January 2019, provides the infrastructure for evaluating and testing VDES in a real-world environment. It can be used to test data transfers from ship to shore, or shore to ship, at rates that are 3000 times higher than what is possible with Automatic Identification System (AIS).

The installation has already been used to transfer large amounts of data in False Bay, Cape Town, which is not possible with AIS. VDES will unlock functions and applications that have not been feasible with AIS and are seen as a crucial element to enhance the capabilities of South Africa’s maritime related government departments.

South Africa has a long and extensive maritime history. South Africa, along with Sweden, played an important role in the technical development of AIS during the 1990s. The 2002 IMO SOLAS Agreement mandates that vessels over 300 gross tonnage carry AIS transceivers, primarily to improve safety at sea. AIS has been highly successful with worldwide adoption of the technology and it has also been expanded to include Application Specific Messages (ASM) to support a wide range of additional maritime applications.

In congested shipping areas, AIS radio channels are getting overloaded, thus disrupting the original safety objectives. This necessitated the development of VDES, the next generation of AIS, that greatly increases the available data bandwidth for maritime use, through the addition of new digital maritime channels for ASM and high-speed data applications. In future, VDES will also include two-way satellite communication to enable worldwide operation.

For more information, contact: JP du Plessis (, Domain Leader: Maritime Domain Awareness

Register here for newsletter and product launch notifications
By submitting this form, you agree to subscribe to our mailing list and receive updates from us. Please see our privacy policy.