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The Power of Satellite Imagery with Eric Anderson

Abu Dhabi Port, UAE

While most of the world is focused on the troop movements and the destruction and devastation happening in Ukraine, there are several other questions that can be answered with satellite imagery in the region. In the case of Eric Anderson, CTO of SynMax, he knew that his energy clients would be very interested to know what was going on with the infrastructure throughout this critical energy-supply nation, and could use this information to help make timely decisions.

Anderson’s team developed a dashboard for energy companies, using satellite imagery to monitor all of the critical infrastructure in Ukraine including power plants, pipelines, and compressor stations, mapped down to within 1 meter. The team is able to continuously monitor crucial areas, looking for potential damage or risk, and disseminate that information out to their clients through the dashboard’s live chat feature. When asked about the process of receiving and manipulating this data, Anderson said that the process is all manual - he starts by continuously monitoring the news and searching for anything that could be viewed or monitored from space. From there, he begins to submit orders to satellites to take pictures specifically for the regions of interest. This is known as “tasking” in the satellite world.  When Anderson receives the tasked pictures, he knows exactly what to look for due to his background in energy trading and familiarity with the market. 

An important insight Anderson’s dashboard provided involved a pipeline explosion that occurred in Ukraine in February. Several observers were concerned that this explosion would cause disruption to the pipelines, having significant impacts on the market. SynMax used synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery to determine exactly where the explosion occurred and determined that the specific piece of infrastructure was not important to the overall pipeline. SAR, or Synthetic Aperture Radar, is a type of sensor that is able to see through clouds and at night, providing answers that might not otherwise not be attainable, especially in the harsh winter conditions of Ukraine.

While utilizing satellite imagery to monitor infrastructure has been extremely valuable for energy companies, the potential uses and benefits of satellite imagery do not stop there. “The potential of satellite imagery is completely underappreciated, probably because people don’t realize just how accessible it’s going to be very shortly with the launch of SkyFi,” Anderson said. “I think we’re going to see a huge number of use cases and creative uses that we would never think of from satellite imagery once people become comfortable with the idea that it’s available to them at their fingertips.”