Ieceye satellite
Iceye operates a constellation of X-band SAR satellites. Credit: Iceye Credit: Iceye

WASHINGTON — Iceye, a company that builds and operates a constellation of microsatellites equipped with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors, has launched a new maritime surveillance product called Ocean Vision.

The service, announced March 7, aims to provide comprehensive monitoring of the world’s oceans.

Nearly 75% of international trade occurs over water, John Cartwright, Iceye’s senior vice president said. Nations increasingly need better intelligence about activities at sea, he added. “However, the maritime environment presents a significant challenge, with vast expanses of ocean to search and monitor.”

SAR satellites detect the signatures of vessels that stand out against the dark background of the ocean’s surface, he noted, and can render vessels visible to SAR sensors at night and in bad weather.

Iceye is based in Finland and operates a U.S. subsidiary called Iceye U.S., based in Irvine, California, where it designs and manufactures satellites. 

The company said the Ocean Vision service allows the integration of SAR imagery with complementary data sources such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) or radio frequency (RF) data.

Growing number of use cases

There is a growing number of use cases for maritime surveillance, said Cartwright, including identifying vessels engaged in illicit trade and smuggling, and those that conduct illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Iceye has previously introduced other maritime surveillance services in partnerships with Windward AI and with the satellite operator Spire.

Unlike previous offerings, Ocean Vision has a “detect” feature that combines SAR data with machine-learning workflows to deliver specialized information layers, the company said.

“Past activity focused more on the utility and application of our SAR data in support of maritime surveillance needs,” said Iceye. Ocean Vision “enables more rapid integration with other relevant geospatial data sources and supports wider exploitation by lowering the need for internal SAR expertise and processing workflows.” 

Iceye on March 4 launched three new SAR satellites on the SpaceX Transporter-10 rideshare mission, including a technology demonstrator with an upgraded X-band antenna.

The company has launched a total of 34 spacecraft since 2018, and plans to launch up to 15 satellites in 2024.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...