Maritime surveillance from space: French Unseenlabs wants to put six more satellites into orbit

The automatic identification system [AIS – Automatic Identification System]whose interest is to strengthen the safety of maritime shipping, makes it possible to follow the traffic of civilian ships… Except when some of them want to remain discreet because of their illegal activities, often [pêche non autorisée, trafics…].

Furthermore, the data collected through this device is not absolutely reliable, as it can be falsified. What’s more, military vessels can pass themselves off as commercial vessels by usurping the latter’s AIS identifiers…

Hence the support from the Ministry of Defense via its investment fund Definvest to the young Rennes company Unseenlabs, which has developed a solution based on a constellation of nano-satellites capable of detecting radio frequency signals. [RF], i.e. electromagnetic emissions from electronic systems on board ships. It is clear that this technology can detect all surface vessels, including those that do not want to be seen, regardless of weather conditions.

This year, the constellation Unseenlabs grew with the placement into orbit of the nano-satellites BRO-6 and BRO-7 [BRO pour Breizh Reconnaissance Orbiter], thanks to the American SpaceX and New Zealander Rocket Lab. In 2023, the Breton company intends to move up a gear.

In fact, the BRO-8 nano-satellite will take off next January from Cape Canaveral, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, as part of the Transporter-6 mission. Five others were to follow him thereafter.

“By 2023, 6 additional satellites should be ready for launch. Unseenlabs will continue to expand its constellation to collect data over an area of ​​interest multiple times per day to support commercial and government applications,” the company said in a statement.

And to add: “The technology on board the Unseenlabs constellation characterizes all of these transmitters by geolocating them in precise spacetime, allowing each ship at sea to have a unique signature or fingerprint to monitor its location at sea. This capability is essential for public and commercial applications and helps monitor areas such as the Baltic Sea [surveillance des gazoducs]Gulf of Guinea [piraterie, trafic, plateformes offshore] or the Arabian Sea [pêche illégale].

Precisely with regard to the Baltic Sea, if one of the Unseenlabs satellites, which has collected “tens of thousands of electromagnetic signatures” since 2019, had been requested at the time of the sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines, in September, so no doubt we would have a more accurate idea of ​​who is responsible. Because in the meantime, and according to the Washington Post, there is no evidence that would pinpoint Russia for sure… And sources from the daily even estimated that it would probably be impossible to know who made this coup…

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