May 5, 2011

Argos marks 25 years serving the environment

Formed in 1986 by CNES and Ifremer1, the French institute of marine research and exploration, CLS turned 25 today. Its Argos transmitters and satellite systems are used by scientists and governments the world over to explore and continuously monitor the planet’s oceans.

19 May 2011

From 400 to 20,000 Argos transmitters

We started fitting out fishing vessels with Argos transmitters in 1989. The transmitters were put on Asian fleets fishing with environmentally destructive drift nets in the Pacific,” recalls CLS CEO Christophe Vassal. “The UN wanted to monitor these vessels and Argos was the only system capable of doing that.

It all began for Collecte Localisation Satellite (CLS) a few years earlier in 1986. The company’s plan was to locate objects and collect data using a matchless informer: the Argos transmitter, a device invented by CNES engineers and dedicated to environmental monitoring and protection.

CLS profile


Incorporated 1986
Number of transmitters: 20,000
Lightest transmitter: 5 g
Business: geolocation

Argos transmitters—20,000 are now operating around the world—are used by shipping companies and government agencies to monitor fishing vessels. Fitted to drifting buoys or animals, they also provide scientists with a treasure trove of data they could previously only dream about.

Argos transmitters revolutionized how we track migrating wildlife,” stresses Christophe Vassal. “And thanks to the increasing sensitivity of the Argos system, we can now track small animals with transmitters weighing only 5 grams or animals that live in extreme environments.”

80 instruments on 40 satellites

CLS’s geolocation business really took off and today is still generating 33% of the company’s revenues. But faced with increasing demand, it decided to diversify.

In 1992, it started working in the field of space oceanography with new satellites like Jason. And in 2004, it began using data from radar satellites.

This gave it the ability to monitor shipping traffic, locate illegal fishing boats and spot oil slicks.

CLS recently signed a contract with the government of Vietnam,” says Christophe Vassal. “Transmitters are going to be installed on 3,000 fishing vessels to monitor what they’re doing and to be able to alert them in the event of a cyclone.

We have 80 instruments operating on 40 satellites that retrieve data for our teams every day,” concludes Vassal.

And after all these years monitoring the remotest corners of the world’s oceans, CLS could soon start looking to extend its business on land.