Tag Archive for: Satellite imagery

SpaceChain, a Singapore-based startup known for its blockchain nodes in orbit, is launching a service that combines artificial intelligence (AI) with Earth imagery data. The service, called I-Sat and developed by SpaceChain’s U.S.-based subsidiary SC Solutions, aims to simplify the process of extracting valuable insights from Earth observation data using AI.

I-Sat utilizes natural language processing technology, similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, to generate answers to questions posed by users. What sets it apart is its integration of real-time data analytics, enhancing the accuracy and relevance of the answers provided.

Through the application of AI to satellite imagery, I-Sat was able to offer customers valuable insights into vegetation health and soil moisture levels, along with recommendations for enhancing plant health and productivity.

SpaceChain is actively seeking to expand its ecosystem by inviting Earth-imagery providers and application developers to join its platform. The company plans to facilitate payments to these vendors using its blockchain technology, creating a seamless and transparent transaction process. This initiative underscores SpaceChain’s commitment to leveraging blockchain and AI technologies to make Earth observation data more accessible and valuable for a wide range of applications.

SC Solutions, in its efforts to showcase the capabilities of I-Sat, conducted pilot projects centered around paper, pulp, and sugarcane production in Brazil.

For sugarcane plants, the project utilized a combination of optical imagery, synthetic aperture radar imagery, and open-source climate data. These data sources were integrated into a machine-learning model, enabling the accurate prediction of crop yields.

Mining is identified as another promising application for I-Sat, underlining the versatility and potential impact of this technology in various industries and sectors. By harnessing AI and Earth imagery data, I-Sat has the potential to provide actionable insights and recommendations that can lead to more efficient and sustainable operations across a range of domains.

Before shifting its focus to Earth observation and AI, SpaceChain established blockchain payloads in space. It currently operates seven SpaceChain nodes on satellites and the International Space Station, which process, transmit, and store data securely in space.

To develop I-Sat, SC Solutions leveraged partnerships and resources from industry leaders. The company joined Nvidia’s Inception Program and Google for Startups, which provide valuable support and resources to emerging businesses. Additionally, SC Solutions is actively collaborating with satellite imagery providers to enhance its offerings.

The goal of the platform is to simplify access to Earth observation data, making it more accessible to a wider range of users. By adding a layer of analytics and combining data from multiple providers, SpaceChain aims to provide users with valuable insights and explanations.

The generative AI tool used in I-Sat allows for natural language interaction with the platform. Users can pose questions or request information, and the platform’s language model will analyze the query and provide accurate answers along with explanations. This approach enhances the usability and accessibility of Earth observation data, making it a powerful tool for various applications and industries.

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.

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.”