Nations often ask their navies to monitor vast maritime regions for vessels engaged in nefarious activity. Often, these vessels are operating dark, meaning they are not broadcasting via Automatic Identification System (AIS), a signal that tells other vessels where they are located. The lack of an AIS signal makes maintaining maritime domain awareness an even greater challenge. Maxar’s Crow’s Nest Maritime Monitoring and Security (MMS) product enables naval organizations to gain deeper insights into vessel activity within their areas of interest.

Maxar’s Crow’s Nest MMS leverages space-based optical and radar imagery, advanced machine learning, automation and low-latency alerting to deliver critical information quickly, with the intent of saving lives, resources and time. Crow’s Nest MMS provides broad-area surveillance and the ability to “zoom in” on vessels for greater understanding of an individual vessel’s activity and identity.

This auto-tipped Maxar WorldView-3 image from March 3, 2021, shows a Russian naval vessel moving through the Arabian Sea.

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors, which can collect imagery through clouds and at night, are used to cover broad areas and detect vessels that are transmitting via AIS as well as those operating in the dark, providing a more complete view of vessel activity. Maxar’s multiconstellation, multisensor and multimode SAR approach and flexible business model allow for custom coverage and revisit to meet dynamic mission needs.

While SAR is great for searching large areas to detect vessels, the amount of information that can be gleaned from a SAR image can be lacking because of coarseness in resolution and the inherent shortcomings of radar. However, SAR imagery offers even greater utility when combined with Maxar’s automated tipping and cueing capability: SAR determines coordinates of where a potential dark vessel is located, and Maxar images that area with its optical constellation, which collects the highest resolution commercial satellite imagery available. Maxar’s imagery allows an analyst to determine vessel identity and activity before deploying often limited resources to stop potential illegal activity. And because this unique tip-and-cue capability is automated, it scales to serve global monitoring missions.

SAR vessel detections, shown on the left, are ideal for covering broad areas and detecting dark vessels, but they lack the necessary clarity to identify vessel activity. By pairing SAR vessel detections with electro-optical, high-resolution imagery (shown on the right), an analyst can ascertain that the dark vessel is engaged in seine fishing, determined by the enclosed nets cast from the boat.

Only timely data is operationally useful—which is why Crow’s Nest MMS optimizes delivery of both SAR and optical imagery within minutes to hours after collection.

Maxar’s WorldView-3 collected an image near an oil spill off the coast of Brazil on June 21, 2021, showing floating production, storage and off-loading units and a tanker.

Maxar’s Crow’s Nest MMS provides vessel locations detected from SAR imagery across broad maritime regions, including vessels operating in the dark. It also leverages Maxar’s automated tipping and cueing to Maxar’s optical sensors to collect greater detail on vessels of interest.

A Maxar satellite imaged a dark vessel engaged in fishing activity in the waters adjacent to the Ecuadorian exclusive economic zone in July 2020.

The protection of a country’s exclusive economic zones is more important than ever, given the growing importance of global trade, expansion of maritime powers and depletion of natural resources. Maxar’s Crow’s Nest MMS product provides critical insights for navies and other maritime security agencies responsible for monitoring and protecting their nations’ waters.

Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing

Maxar has deployed Crow’s Nest MMS to monitor IUU fishing.

Explore the use case
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