Naval observation from space: France’s Unseenlabs will expand its fleet of nanosatellites

In order to compensate for some of the shortcomings in its capacity in the sphere of state action at sea, the French Navy uses satellite monitoring, which makes it possible to obtain information [comme celles transmises par les balises AIS – Automatic Identification System ou Système d’identification automatique] on shipping traffic in a particular area. from where Trimaran III . necklaceentrusted to CLS [filiale du CNES et de la CNP] June 2021 for five years.

Only, not all ships have to be equipped with AIS signals. And when they have, nothing compels them to activate it, especially when they engage in illegal activities. a Published study In January 2020 by the CNRS, implemented as part of the “Ocean Sentinel” project, it showed that in the Southern Ocean, “more than a third of the boats encountered in international waters have not been identified”.

Recently, when from a hearing Annick Girardin, Minister of the Seas, Senator Felipe Folio, mentioned the case of a Mexican sea-trawling ship that seized 1,200 tons of tuna in the exclusive economic zone. [ZEE] From the French island of Clipperton after its AIS beacon was deactivated so it could not be detected and tracked by satellites.

“I would like to remind you that Mexico announces 700 to 4,000 tons of catch every year, while by chance we came across one net that probably contained 1,200 tons of tuna in its holdings,” the parliamentarian noted in passing.

Moreover, the data sent by the latter is not always completely reliable due to the possibility of falsification, as shown in the case of the Dutch frigate that was spotted in 2021 near Sevastopol. [Crimée] While she was on a layover in Odessa.

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Hence the interest of the solution proposed by the young French company Unseenlabs, supported since 2018 by the Ministry of the Armed Forces, through its investment fund Definvest. This is based on a group of nano-satellites dedicated to detecting radio frequency signals. [RF]that is, electromagnetic emissions from electronic systems on board ships [comme ceux utilisés pour l’aide à la navigation, par exemple].

The “Unseenlabs” constellation accurately detects, distinguishes and geolocates these radio frequency signals, which come from a wide range of transmitters, over sea areas several hundred miles away.
Thousands of square kilometres. By processing and analyzing this radio frequency data, Unseenlabs provides unique knowledge of national security operations, environmental protection and a growing number of applications in the commercial sector,” explains this company, which was born in Rennes in 2015.

Currently, Unseenlabs owns five “BRF” nanosatellites. [pour Breizh Reconnaissance Orbiter] in orbit. They will be joined by two more in April, thanks to American SpaceX and New Zealander Rocket Lab.

BRO-6 and BRO-7 […] From the constellation dedicated to the geolocation of ships at sea, to meet the growing demand for radio-frequency geospatial data. […] Monday
Launches will take place this month [avril 2022] On two different launchers: the Electron rocket from Rocket Lab and the Falcon 9 from SpaceX, Unseenlabs announced March 31.

These new satellites add essential capabilities
to the Unseenlabs constellation, which translates into additional solutions and deeper analytics for our customers,” commented Kleiman Galic, CEO and Co-Founder of the company.

The goal of Unseenlabs is to operate more than twenty nano-satellites, which will provide near-permanent monitoring of marine traffic around the world. And that, no matter what the weather conditions are, it is not without details…

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