BlackSky & Spire Global have joined forces to offer a new global monitoring service that utilizes satellite technology to track ships. This service called the “maritime custody service” leverages radio frequency emissions to automatically task satellite imagery, detect and classify vessels, and provide continuous monitoring of maritime activities.
Spire Global’s radio-frequency monitoring satellites play a key role in detecting emissions from ships and identifying dark vessels that manipulate their reported positions to engage in suspicious activities. By analyzing radio-frequency data, the system can identify vessels that may be involved in illicit behavior. This information is then used to tip BlackSky’s satellites to collect relevant imagery of the identified vessels.
BlackSky’s Spectra AI platform, which operates in the cloud, uses artificial intelligence to analyze the electro-optical images captured by the satellites. The AI algorithms are designed to detect vessels, estimate cargo, and monitor changes over time. Additionally, the maritime tracking service incorporates synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from third-party satellites to complement the visible imagery. SAR technology is capable of penetrating clouds and darkness, providing valuable insights even in challenging weather conditions.
Spire’s satellites are responsible for tracking vessels emitting automatic identification system (AIS) data, as well as detecting spoofed AIS signals and other very high frequency (VHF) signals. By monitoring these signals, the system can enhance its understanding of vessel movements and potentially identify any suspicious activities.
By combining the capabilities of radio-frequency monitoring, electro-optical imagery analysis, and SAR technology, the maritime custody service offered by BlackSky & Spire Global provides comprehensive monitoring and tracking of ships worldwide. This service has the potential to support various applications, such as maritime security, anti-piracy efforts, and environmental monitoring in oceans and seas.
BlackSky & Spire Global’s maritime custody service offers the capability to track approximately 270,000 vessels worldwide, whether they are in open water, rivers, and canals, or docked at ports. This extensive monitoring ability is crucial for various purposes such as national security, detecting illicit ship-to-ship transfers, combating smuggling and sanctions evasion, and monitoring illegal fishing activities in restricted areas.
Iain Goodridge, Senior Director of Radio Frequency Geolocation Products at Spire, emphasized the importance of identifying, locating, and continuously monitoring ships, particularly those that manipulate their reported location. Dark shipping activity has significant impacts on the global economy, the environment, and people’s safety, making it vital to have robust tracking capabilities.
The data obtained through the service has multiple applications, including the ability to anticipate the consequences of port congestion and shipping delays on global and regional supply chains. By analyzing the insights provided by the monitoring service, stakeholders can make informed decisions to mitigate potential disruptions and optimize logistical operations.
Patrick O’Neil, Chief Innovation Officer at BlackSky, highlighted the service’s focus on delivering timely insights with minimal latency throughout the entire process, from tasking and collection to processing, exploitation, and dissemination. This ensures that the information is provided efficiently, enabling users to act promptly based on the received intelligence.