It’s truly my pleasure to have had the opportunity to perform the duties of Guest Editor for this edition of Geospatial World. The topic of geospatial as it relates to national and international security could easily fill several volumes of the magazine. There is rich content herein, provided by a broad range of professionals with a wonderfully diverse set of backgrounds, experiences, and responsibilities. However, even in the broad spectrum of perspectives there are a few common themes which emerge.
First, it’s clear that the only constant in our business is change. In almost every piece that follows, the authors articulate the changing nature of the people, processes, and technology related to geospatial and international security. Sir Stuart Peach recognizes the ongoing challenge of this change and suggests: “The trick is to take advantage of new technologies, apply them quickly and not allow our own processes to get in the way.” There is indeed a natural tendency to apply technological advances to old ways of performing our craft, and it takes a concerted effort to explore how we might adapt to best take advantage of the opportunities these new technologies present.
Second, to borrow a phrase from my colleague Dr. Chris Tucker, is the challenge of the “cyber-location nexus”. We are all conditioned to believe what we see on our screens. This is evidenced by myriad anecdotal examples of people driving into things like bodies of water because they were blindly following their navigation device. In those cases, they were probably victims of devices with old or bad data, but not because of any malign actors. In this edition, Diana Furchgott-Ross raises concern about the reliability of our GNSS systems, specifically GPS. She warns about a variety of threats, both intentional (spoofing) and unintentional (spectrum infringement). Vice Admiral Robert Sharp shares his concern regarding GPS as well. Robert Cardillo goes further to talk about the importance of being able to assure the “pedigree of our pixels”, imploring our community to invest appropriate energy into assuring geospatial and image data provenance.
Third, both Commodore Bhaskar (Retd) and Lieutenant General Mohanty speak about the realities of the current geopolitical milieu. Of course, in our community we know that we put the ‘geo’ in geopolitical, the same way we put the ‘pan’ in pandemic. That is to say that international security affairs are inexorably tied to place. Both of these distinguished military leaders share their perspectives on the increasing interest in the Indian Ocean region, drawing China, Russia, and the United States into reimagining their respective interests, and considering their relationships in the region — with India playing a paramount role. Commodore Bhaskar talks about the “complex change in the global strategic landscape”, and Lieutenant General Mohanty articulates the need for India to have a full-spectrum response to increasingly complicated geopolitical challenges.
Finally, this edition of the magazine chronicles several companies that are leading exciting advances in Remote Sensing: BlackSky, HawkEye360, and Capella Space. Brian O’Toole of BlackSky shares their vision for aggressively building out downstream applications for their electro-optical systems…and more. HawkEye360 is at the forefront of providing radio frequency (RF) Remote Sensing, which will provide an important enhancement to the era of global transparency. Alex Fox shares that the value of RF is that it “detects, characterizes, and locates signals across land, sea, air, and Space.” Capella Space, along with ICEYE, Umbra, and others are offering next-generation commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR), truly bringing it into the mainstream. As many in our community contend, and I concur, this seems like the advent of an exciting new era for SAR. In sum, as commercial Remote Sensing capabilities proliferate, the national security community will need to continually assess the balance between inherently governmental missions and missions that can be ‘offloaded’ to commercial providers. Clearly, most nations will adopt a hybrid approach to gain access to the optimal mix of both.
I hope all of you appreciate the depth and breadth of information and insights offered in this edition of Geospatial World. Whether or not you are a practitioner in the national security sector, there should be much that interests you here. Finally, I encourage you to share, discuss, and comment on the content in this issue. Our community is stronger when we have a vibrant discourse about what we do and how we do it. Everyone’s voice is welcomed and encouraged!