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SAR Data Offers Unique Opportunity for GEOINT Sector

We are approaching a point where the GEOINT community will begin to understand historical and ongoing trends and anomalies on a global scale with higher levels of reliability, regardless of cloud coverage or time of day, says Payam Banazadeh, CEO & Founder, Capella Space.

Space 4.0 is intertwined with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and is going to shape the future of Earth Observation. How modern technologies like, Digital Twin, AI, will drive the Space industry, and impact the GEOINT sector?

Ten years ago, satellite imagery was a relatively scarce resource that was limited to the domain of large government agencies and a few companies with large satellites. In only a few years, this dynamic has changed. Today, it’s possible to view, analyze and disseminate geospatial intelligence based on millions of images of our Earth and make better decisions impacting our physical, social and economic well-being. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will make it possible for analysis to keep up with the pace of data creation and guide experts on when and where to look.

Earlier, this phenomenon was mostly limited to the domain of optical imagery, but Cloud cover and limited night-time visibility meant that we could only have a “partial Digital Twin” of our planet. The Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) segment is seeing a massive increase in the number of high resolution, high revisit sensors that are capable of 24/7 all-weather monitoring. We are approaching the point where the GEOINT community will begin to understand the historical and ongoing trends and anomalies on a global scale with higher levels of reliability, regardless of cloud coverage or time of day.

Geospatial information and near real-time change detection analysis are particularly crucial for intelligence agencies. In terms of unique value proposition, what does Capella Space offer to defense and intelligence agencies?

We offer customers on-demand, self-serve tasking and delivery through our online Capella Console, so that our customers are directly tasking and steering the satellites themselves — without delays and security risks posed by middlemen. This is a first for the SAR segment.

Our imagery is unmatched, as the 50 cm x 50 cm resolution that we offer is twice as high as anything available previously. SAR images have typically been difficult for visual analysis due to noise and speckles, but Capella’s unique, long dwell Spot mode allows for better image clarity. The low speckle is a function of Capella’s satellites focusing on an area of interest for as long as 60 seconds, which is an order of magnitude larger than what has traditionally been available. That means detecting granular features and objects like various classes of vehicles, aircraft and vessels that are of interest to our customers. In our first light imagery from our most recent launch, we were able to spot the fins on Russian submarines.

Latency, often referred to as the “other enemy on the battlefield”, is a major concern for defence forces. How can this issue be addressed?

We are designing systems that can be used specifically by the combatant commands, so that they can maintain a strategic informational edge and save lives. In order to do this, we need to deliver data at market-leading temporal and spatial resolutions. Our Web-based Capella Console is the first of its kind and is the market’s only truly automated order-to-delivery system. Building for automation from the start will help our customers access mission-critical information within hours, and it has the potential to save lives.

By leveraging the global coverage provided by the AWS Ground Station and combining that with Capella’s automated and real-time approach to collecting Earth Observation data, we make it possible for our customers to achieve timely insights that can help them save lives and protect the health of the planet.

Our imagery is also unclassified, which is advantageous in terms of dissemination and sharing of information. Government agencies can collaborate easily with one another due to fewer restrictions, and information can easily be shared with international mission partners.

Data is a powerful asset, and the more information you have about what is happening on Earth, the more opportunity there is to improve the livelihood of everyone on it

What lies ahead for the GEOINT sector, and how will Capella Space contribute in shaping the next-generation GEOINT enterprise?

If the last decade saw an explosion in optical imagery, this decade is starting with a growth in SAR innovation. Capella Space is sitting at the confluence of more frequent and affordable launches, innovative new SmallSat designs and advances in Cloud computing in a growing SAR market. Going forward, data is going to play an incredibly important role for the GEOINT sector. We have seen the way data has transformed industries over the last decade, from healthcare, financial services to retail, and that same opportunity is there for the geospatial intelligence community. Data is a powerful asset, and the more information you have about what is happening on Earth, the more opportunity there is to improve the livelihood of everyone on it.

I saw an opportunity to use SAR to fix significant limitations in the Earth Observation industry, and shortly afterwards, the US Department of Defense validated that customer need. The commercial markets are not fully accustomed to working with SAR data, so we are using this opportunity to make SAR more commercially appealing by making it easier to visualize, consume and purchase.

The global challenges facing the world today, such as the pandemic and Climate Change, have pushed governments across the globe to want to expand and grow the SAR market much faster than before, because this kind of data can literally help save lives. As SAR providers explore these new use cases in the commercial markets, governments will benefit from it with access to entirely new applications.

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