Machine Learning

BlackSky’s AI/ML Tech Leveraged to Monitor Iranian Nuclear Facility

Stanford researchers use geospatial imagery and machine learning technology to gain real-time insights

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.

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.

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