Tag Archive for: SAR

SkyWatch, a satellite data distribution company headquartered in Ontario, Canada, has introduced a novel imagery product that combines both radar and optical images. SkyWatch operates the EarthCache platform, providing customers with access to commercial satellite data. The company has recognized a growing demand for integrated imagery that merges visually appealing optical satellite pictures with data from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites, which have the ability to capture images at night and through cloud cover.

David Proulx, Chief Product Officer at SkyWatch, emphasized that, at any given moment, a significant portion of the Earth’s surface faces atmospheric conditions that challenge or even prevent optical satellite image capture.

This new service offered by SkyWatch enables EarthCache customers to obtain a SAR image of the same area they are interested in from their optical capture and then overlay this data. SAR’s advantage lies in its capability to capture images under all weather conditions, making it invaluable for monitoring and responding to critical events when traditional optical satellite imagery is hindered by cloudy or adverse weather conditions.

In addition to its new imaging product, SkyWatch has revealed that it is now offering synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from Umbra which is a startup headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, which operates a constellation of six radar satellites.

James Slifierz, CEO of SkyWatch, highlighted that Umbra’s inclusion in their virtual constellation, which already comprises over 400 satellites, further enhances their ability to assist customers in solving intricate challenges within the Earth observation domain.

Joe Morrison, Vice President of Commercial Experience at Umbra, praised SkyWatch for being among the pioneers in advancing the Earth observation industry into the modern era by adopting a web-based, API-first tasking approach. This approach makes it more accessible and efficient for users to request and obtain specific satellite data for their needs.

Iceye, a provider of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite imaging, has introduced a new imaging mode called Dwell. This mode allows satellites to focus on a specific area for 25 seconds, providing more detailed and specialized imaging compared to Iceye’s traditional 10-second views.

The purpose of the Dwell imaging mode is to aid analysts in quickly differentiating between human-made objects (such as buildings and vehicles) and natural features like forests, fields, ice, and water. By analyzing the way microwave pulses reflect off objects, the algorithm can identify distinct patterns that indicate the presence of man-made structures. In contrast, natural features exhibit similar microwave reflections across a given area.

To visually highlight built objects in the Dwell imagery, Iceye uses bright colors. This enables analysts to easily identify and differentiate human-made structures from the surrounding environment.

The introduction of the Dwell imaging mode enhances Iceye’s SAR capabilities and provides valuable tools for various applications, including urban monitoring, infrastructure assessment, and surveillance.

Iceye recognizes the continued importance of human analysts in interpreting satellite imagery and aims to facilitate their work by making radar imagery more accessible to those without extensive experience in the field. The Dwell imaging mode, with its extended focus time of 25 seconds, not only enhances image quality and clarity but also allows both novice and experienced analysts to derive valuable insights from the data.

By focusing on an area for a longer duration, Dwell imagery can provide increased acuity and detail, enabling analysts to discern subtle features and patterns. This makes the mode beneficial for both analysts who are new to radar imagery and those with expertise in the field.

Dwell imaging is particularly useful for detecting objects hidden under foliage, such as tanks or equipment concealed by trees. The microwaves have a higher chance of penetrating the foliage and reflecting back from the hidden objects, providing valuable information for analysis.

John Cartwright, ICEYE’s data product head, highlighted that Dwell imagery will aid users in comprehending and characterizing ground activities and changes, regardless of lighting and weather conditions. By offering a comprehensive view of the monitored areas, Iceye’s Dwell mode enhances the understanding of various phenomena and facilitates effective decision-making processes.

Satellite imagery can help the public be in the loop better than previously for different world events. On the day before the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, Jeffrey Lewis, a well-known figure on social media under the handle @ArmsControlWonk, tweeted that someone was on the move. He had been monitoring Russian movements for days leading up to the invasion using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data from Capella Space, a commercial company.

In the tweet, he included a SAR image of a Russian armored unit that had recently arrived in Belgorod, near the Ukraine border. Despite Lewis believing that the invasion was imminent, many skeptics were still unconvinced by the commercially available satellite image.

Lewis expressed his amazement at the intelligence now available to the public. He noted that this is the first war where people can follow updates on social media, whereas in the past, most of the satellite images about world events came from government sources.

Lewis notes that no other conflict has had the same immersive quality as the current conflict in Ukraine, largely due to the abundance of social media information, which often includes satellite imagery. As a professor of nonproliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, Lewis is known for pioneering the use of open-source intelligence for independent reporting on issues such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the aftermath of natural disasters. On the day before the invasion, Lewis used publicly available data, such as a video posted on TikTok and Google Maps, to corroborate the SAR image of the Russian armored unit.

According to Lewis, some of his colleagues thought it was crazy to fuse the data from social media and satellite images. Similarly, the Institute for the Study of War, a research group based in Washington, has used satellite imagery and other open-source intelligence to track events in Ukraine, and commercial imagery has been instrumental for their work. George Barros, a geospatial intelligence analyst at ISW, believes that these new technologies can be leveraged to provide honest, timely, and accurate assessments to inform the public.

“There’s been an explosion in the kinds of data that people can collect commercially, which is fantastic and amazing,” Barros says.

The U.S. government, to be sure, helped to open the spigot of commercial imagery because it knew an invasion was about to happen but could not share its own classified satellite images with allies or news media.

Lewis credits the Biden administration for the unprecedented release of commercial imagery and for ensuring the images were “annotated and pointing to things that analysts like me could go check.”

While electro-optical images provided by Maxar, Planet, BlackSky and others are really powerful and visually appealing, Lewis considers SAR the “breakout technological capability of this particular war.” In Ukraine, he says, “when you take optical images, what you frequently get is a picture of clouds.”

Whether it’s radar, optical or other forms of satellite-based data, he says, there is still a lot of potential in commercial imagery that hasn’t yet been realized. In conversations with colleagues, “I point out to them all the time that satellite imagery would solve a ton of problems they have, but they’re just intimidated by it.”

Radar imagery is especially challenging because it’s not a picture that can be understood intuitively, he says. Making sense of SAR data requires special software tools and an investment in trained analysts, “so that’s always been a little bit of a barrier.”

Although there’s still more work to be done in this area, the geospatial intelligence community will view the Ukraine war as a pivotal moment in the use of information from space to inform and to shape world events, says Lewis. “We’re entering an era in which it’s just very hard to keep a lot of activities secret.”

PlanetWatchers has developed a new multi-source Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) platform that utilizes multiple SAR sources to deliver actionable insights without the usual delays due to weather, time of day, and environmental conditions. Natural resource managers will now receive enhanced risk management and analytical data from the new platform.Photo: PlanetWatchers

World-renowned remote sensing specialist Professor Dirk Hoekman recently joined PlanetWatchers radar team and directs the company’s new SAR initiatives. With global experience stretching across North America, South America, and Asia, he is committed to maximizing the efficacy of research into the physical aspects of remote sensing and microwave remote sensing and developing effective remote sensing applications in forestry, agriculture, agro-hydrology, and environmental change climate studies.

Dr. Hoekman actively engages with PlanetWatchers clients in forestry, sugarcane, energy, and agriculture. “Natural resources managers are now highly dependent on data, analytics, and insights to help make better-informed business decisions and address risk effectively,” he observes.

“I look forward to collaborating with the team, leading the new SAR initiatives, and working with our growing client base around the world to deliver meaningful, actionable business intelligence.”

Ariel Smoliar, CEO of PlanetWatchers, adds, “Managers base key decisions on data. Until recently, their ability to gather useful data was constrained by environmental factors such as massive cloud cover and heavy prolonged rains; smoke, gases, and wildfires; poor light conditions for satellite imagery; availability of airborne systems and drones; etc.

“After studying the issue extensively, we have developed a new proprietary solution with Artificial Intelligence proven to overcome these challenges.

“Data can now be obtained, as needed, without having to wait for optimal visibility. Analytical insights can be implemented right away–to stop a bad situation from getting worse.”

PlanetWatchers has already successfully completed a number of major engagements around the world using its SAR -based Analytics Platform in a variety of vertical industries including forestry, sugarcane, and energy. “Numerous clients received exceptional field intelligence, and implemented it with measurable gains,” says Smoliar.

The SAR Analytics Platform tasks multi-source SAR sources combined with optical imagery and AI-driven analytics to provide the ‘Last Mile of Analytics, – actionable intelligence critically important to operations, supply chain, risk management, and planning departments at natural resource companies.

The platform identifies a wide array of parameters, such as crop uniformity and environmental damage caused by wildfires, pests, and weather anomalies that directly impact yield, risks, and profitability.