Capturing Real-time Echoes of Earth’s Heartbeat

Real-time persistent global monitoring enables defense and intelligence organizations to receive first-to-know insights that can be used for critical, mission-specific decision-making.

Using high-revisit satellite imagery, BlackSky’s Spectra AI has detected the utilization of major facilities at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Parking spaces shown in green are rarely used, while red indicates frequent occupancy. BlackSky customers can also understand inflow/outflow of cargo and monitor airline maintenance activity

BY Brian E. O’Toole

With rapidly changing economics and evolving technologies, real-time geospatial insights have become an affordable reality. In fact, 60-minute average revisit rate and 90-minute average product delivery are almost here. Global monitoring can provide pattern-of-life intelligence beyond what has been possible with traditional image collection. Emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) techniques make it possible to process millions of observations daily from Space, air, environmental sensors, asset tracking sensors, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Internet-enabled narrative sources to automatically deliver situational awareness within minutes of an alert or an event. Real-time persistent global monitoring enables defense and intelligence organizations to receive first-to-know insights that can be used for critical, mission-specific decision-making, which can have far-reaching implications.

The process of convergence of significant foundational elements to move geospatial capabilities forward has already started. This convergence of geospatial information, using a network of sensors, signals and predictive analytics, is the basis of BlackSky’s Spectra AI platform. It provides deep levels of awareness for a constantly changing world. The company’s satellite constellation offers advanced tasking and a high revisit rate that provides enhanced situational awareness and enables monitoring for pattern-of-life incongruities, which can impact missions and decisions.

Persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

BlackSky is already harnessing the power of unique geospatial information through its work with several defense and intelligence organizations and programs. Under the AFWERX Persistent ISR Challenge, we aim to create a comprehensive Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) system that covers the entire globe. The US Air Force and Department of Defense are using end-to-end persistent ISR monitoring solutions to support their find, fix, track and assess missions. In these missions, the global monitoring and intelligence solutions are aligned to the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) architecture for in-theater, near real-time situational insights. Using the imaging constellation and Cloud-based Spectra AI platform, which incorporates object detection and change detection, the time from data collection to decision point is decreased remarkably.

Another significant inflection point is the acceleration of the Department of Defense’s ability to leverage low-cost, high-performance, small-imaging satellites to inform future operational systems. The tactical ISR missions have led to the development of a critical concept of operations (CONOPS), including tactics, techniques and procedures.

Though we don’t know what the next crisis will be, geospatial intelligence will play an essential role in monitoring the situation and measuring its impact

Critical infrastructure and construction monitoring

Tracking construction and infrastructure events is another area where geospatial insights can be useful for defense and intelligence organizations. Technological innovation moves forward with the aim to automate the quantitative AI and ML analysis of Space-based imagery to perform broad-area searches for natural and man-made events using time-series imagery. The Spectra AI platform can develop a responsive system that can automatically monitor large-scale construction of critical infrastructure, such as military bases, ports, dams and airports.

Further, the platform can be used for site monitoring and global intelligence. Specifically, it examines the pattern-of-life activity at these types of landmarks to understand the flow of traffic and recognize general activities. This can be a valuable way to monitor how these sites are being used, the patterns of usage and the way that infrastructure may be impacting other environmental factors or neighboring structures.

Crisis response and supply chain security

To assist with pandemic recovery efforts, we monitor the efficacy of global COVID-19 mitigation efforts at overseas US military bases for the US Air Force — a concept that will continue to evolve. Leveraging Spectra AI and its predictive decision-making can help protect critical supply chains and ensure the protection of deployed personnel.

The pandemic has underscored the importance of having rapid access to data and analytics during a global crisis. Having first-to-know insights provides an opportunity to make more informed decisions and respond with a deeper level of understanding and context. Though we don’t know what the next crisis will be, geospatial intelligence will play an essential role in monitoring the situation and measuring its impact.

The demand for real-time intelligence is growing in a number of areas, such as tactical defense, land use monitoring, for gathering humanitarian information and understanding industrial and environmental changes. It has become a nexus for various sources of geospatial data and AI and ML analytics that fuel technology platforms driving a dramatic paradigm shift. This shift will usher in a new era of near real-time capture of anomalies, change and transition that can impact and influence the daily life around the world.

Going forward, contributors in the defense and intelligence arena will need to demonstrate the ability to rapidly innovate, while delivering first-to-know insights and on-demand intelligence. As these organizations discover the value of real-time geospatial insights, it is becoming a must-have decision-making resource. This resource is one that the geospatial intelligence industry will continue to push, with a mission of leveraging technologies and solutions towards a future of nearly endless possibilities.

Brian E. O’Toole is CEO at BlackSky