Use It or Lose It: Locate your Yacht with RFID


Hmmm... now where did I leave my yacht?

Trolley Scan Ltd., a South African company that develops ultra high frequency (UHF) passive radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, has created RFID tracking technology specifically for yachts and other shipping vessels.  These RFID tags can be embedded in yachts and can be read from far distances. These RFID tags can help track and identify yachts that are coming in and out of ports or have been stolen.

Yachts are luxury boats or ships used for leisure and recreational activities.  They are mainly used in the United States and Europe, with a growing market in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean.  Even though yachts are big in size, thousands of yachts are stolen each year.  Compared to car theft, stealing a yacht is a lot easier and more profitable.  With cars and other vehicles, the thieves need to get around police patrols and border controls.  It is not that simple to cross international borders with a car.  But with yachts, often thieves need only cut a rope and set sail across the water.  Depending on the country, when yachts enter international waters, which is typically 3 nautical miles off the coast, no legal authority can stop suspicious yachts.

Once the yacht has been stolen, visible and identifying marks are removed.  The yachts are repainted and refurbished.  They are usually sold in a different country or state to avoid suspicion.  They sometimes are sold for half the normal price.  The parts of the yacht can also be chopped and sold separately.

There are many way to use the functionality of RFID for yachts and other water vessels to prevent thefts and for tracking.

One of the ways to use RFID is identification of the components and the yacht.  Yachts can be made with aluminum, carbon fiber, steel or ferrocement but are usually made of fiberglass.  Trolley Scan makes wire RFID transponders as thin as a human hair.  These can be embedded in the yacht during the molding process. The RFID is a passive and has a very long operational life.  It can be read with a reader from a long distance up to 10 meters away.  It gives a unique number that can be used to identify it.  Because the RFID tags are so small, the thieves who try to remove all identifying marks will not be able to locate the transponder.  The transponder provides an identification number for the entire life of the yacht.

Mike Marsh, Managing Director of Trolley Scan, said, “Especially with the mass manufacture of small boats and that they are left unattended for long times, there is an issue to prove identity of the boat itself and of parts of the boat. Here RFID embedded in the molding by the manufacturer can provide traceability when the boats or parts are stolen and repainted to remove the external identification marking.”

Another way to use RFID is to manage the port where the yacht is docked.  It can be challenging to track and identify yachts and other shipping vessels coming in and out of a sailing club, harbor or marina.  Marsh said, “In cases where the boats will pass through a breakwater or quay to leave the harbor and where the local authorities need records of who has gone out and come back to facilitate rescue activities, and where the harbor is usually unmanned - a case exists for long range RFID transponders with a long range reader to log boats in and out as they pass the breakwater.”

RFID can also be used in measuring the timing in racing of yachts and other boats, although it has a limited use.  Marsh said, “Here RFID is not too much use as it is not accurate enough for close run races where the finish line is rather long. Better solutions are GPS trackers for the more expensive boats.”

RFID can also be used to track yachts and fishing boats to prevent seaborne attacks.  Marsh continued, “Another area that is growing and where our cow tracking product seems to be heading is the monitoring of fishing boats off major ports like Mumbai in India to prevent seaborne attacks. Radar systems can plot all the boats but they do not know the identity of the boats and the boats are chaotic in their patterns as required by fishing. Here our cow track product with a 7km range and position location can prove a cheap useful solution.”

About Trolley Scan

Trolley Scan Ltd. is a major creative force that provides UHF passive RFID solutions to businesses around the world. They offer complete systems of readers, transponders and antennas as well as standardized systems for common applications.  Trolley Scan was formed in 1995 when the first low-cost RFID protocol was developed by its founder during his research for a South African government organization.  They have since created new sets of cutting-edge protocols and came up with solutions for 3-dimensional scanning of goods.  They are based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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