Singapore invests in satellite tech to boost search and rescue capabilities

The Maritime Search and Rescue Region (MSRR) tasked to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). Credit: MPA


Singapore has invested in new satellite technology that will enhance its maritime and aeronautical search and rescue (SAR) capabilities, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a joint release on Monday (24 July).


MPA drives Singapore’s port and maritime development, including acting as port authority and port regulator. CAAS regulates and administers Singapore’s airspace.


The new medium-altitude earth-orbit search and rescue (MEOSAR) ground system is said to be an improvement on the current low-altitude earth-orbit search and rescue (LEOSAR) ground system. It costs SGD8.4 million (USD6.2 million) and will be fully operational in 2018.


The system comprises a ground and space segments and uses medium-altitude earth-orbit (MEO) satellites. When aircraft, ships, or persons in distress activate emergency beacons, the distress signals will be received by the MEO satellites and relayed back to the ground operation.


This allows access to more satellites than with the current system, and more advanced technologies can be employed to enhance positional accuracy for faster detection and location of distressed parties.

Adopting the MEOSAR ground system is an intiative under the Cospas-Sarsat programme, an international, satellite-based programme that provides accurate, timely, and reliable distress alert and location data to search and rescue authorities.


Within the Cospas-Sarsat programme, all mission control centres are connected globally via communication networks to share information. Singapore has been an active participant in the programme since 1991 and is responsible for sending emergency messages to points of contacts such as Brunei, Malaysia, and Myanmar.


Kevin Shum, director-general of CAAS, said the organisation was committed to offering prompt assistance to persons in distress within the Singapore Search and Rescue Region and that the improved system would enhance such capabilities. “It will complement our equipment and resources to provide faster, more accurate, and reliable data to locate persons in distress.”


Andrew Tan, chief executive of MPA, noted that time was of the essence in any search and rescue mission. “The new MEOSAR system will allow us to detect and locate the distressed party more accurately for the expeditious deployment of assets to save lives. This is in line with the MPA’s continuous efforts to adopt new technologies to enhance our search and rescue capabilities.”


Contact Simin Ngai at and follow her on Twitter: @SiminNgai

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