Stanford researchers use geospatial imagery and machine learning technology to gain real-time insights</strong
HERNDON, Va. – BlackSky Holdings, Inc. (“BlackSky”), a leading technology platform providing real-time geospatial intelligence and global monitoring that has announced a planned business combination with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: SFTW), today shared that its geospatial imagery was used in a groundbreaking intelligence study that tracks and monitors activity at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran.
BlackSky’s high-revisit satellite imagery enabled researchers at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) to monitor the pattern of life at the Natanz nuclear facility and gain a better understanding of activity and events at the site. BlackSky’s satellites provide high, intraday revisit capabilities, allowing CISAC’s research team to receive multiple images a day, throughout the day, rather than just one image collected at roughly the same time each day.
An animated sequence of BlackSky burst imagery collected on 4 March 2021 between 11:37:21 UTC and 11:38:18 UTC shows a vehicle in motion at the eastern tunnel area of the Natanz South underground centrifuge assembly facility. According to Imagery Analyst and BlackSky Consultant, Allison Puccioni, this graphic illustrates a “‘Burst collection’ – or the collection of up to several dozen satellite images over the same target over a 60-90 second timeframe – which was conducted over the new construction of an underground nuclear centrifuge assembly facility near Natanz’ nuclear enrichment facility in Iran. By collecting and sequencing these images together, the dimension of movement is added to the analysis to facilitate detection of nuanced movement and patterns of activity on the ground. In this image sequence, engineering equipment is seen rolling back and forth over the same area, likely in an effort to harden the road leading into the tunnel. Grading, hardening, and paving a road is critical to enabling passage of large vehicles or vehicles with sensitive equipment. This activity would not have been identified without rapid-succession satellite imagery collection.” (Credit: The above video of satellite imagery courtesy of BlackSky, and first published by Janes in conjunction with research from CISAC.)
BlackSky satellites are also capable of capturing a sequence of up to 20 images within a matter of minutes, known as a burst collection, and then splicing them together. Instead of a single picture, burst collections are geospatially normalized and joined together to generate a moving sequence of activity. With BlackSky’s assistance, the research team was able to witness trucks emerging from the facility’s underground tunnels.
“Observations that provide real-time, activities-based insights have the potential to change the world,” said Dr. Patrick O’Neil, chief data scientist at BlackSky. “The BlackSky/CISAC research team demonstrated the power of combining rapid revisit satellite imagery, human domain expertise, and AI/ML techniques to identify and understand activity at Natanz, which was previously unknown to much of the world.”
Allison Puccioni, a renowned imagery analyst and BlackSky consultant, assembled a leading research team at Stanford University, with help from Rose Gottemoeller, an internationally recognized diplomat, former NATO Deputy Secretary, and current visiting professor at Stanford. The pair enlisted two highly skilled principal research assistants in geospatial science to develop a sophisticated and innovative situational-intelligence program to monitor the Natanz nuclear facility.
Natanz is Iran’s primary facility for advanced uranium enrichment and is an active political and military location driven by concerns about the country’s nuclear operations. The BlackSky/Stanford research team set a leading example for using high-resolution satellite imagery, AI/ML, and deep analysis to deliver first-to-know geospatial intelligence for the world’s nuclear proliferation communities.
About BlackSky Holdings, Inc.
BlackSky is a leading provider of real-time geospatial intelligence. BlackSky monitors activities and facilities worldwide by harnessing the world’s emerging sensor networks and leveraging its own satellite constellation. BlackSky processes millions of data elements daily from its constellation as well as a variety of space, IoT, and terrestrial-based sensors and data feeds. BlackSky’s on-demand constellation of satellites can image a location multiple times throughout the day. BlackSky monitors for pattern-of-life anomalies to produce alerts and enhance situational awareness. BlackSky’s monitoring service, Spectra AI, is powered by cutting-edge compute techniques including machine learning, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and natural language processing. BlackSky’s global monitoring solution is available via a simple subscription and requires no IT infrastructure or setup. On February 17, 2021, BlackSky entered into a definitive agreement for a business combination (the “Merger Agreement”) with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp. (“Osprey”) (NYSE: SFTW) that would result in BlackSky becoming a publicly listed company. For more information visit www.blacksky.com.
Osprey is a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, that was established as a collaboration between investment firms HEPCO Capital Management, led by Jonathan and Edward Cohen, and JANA Partners, led by Barry Rosenstein and with its SPAC initiative led by JANA Partner David DiDomenico, who serves as Osprey’s CEO, President, and Director. Osprey was formed to consummate a transaction with one or more transformative companies that have developed innovative software delivery platforms. For more information visit www.osprey-technology.com.