After the call for satellite imagery by EOSDA CEO Max Polyakov and Ukraine Vice Premier Mykhailo Fedorov earlier this week, many satellite providers pledged their support for Ukraine. In these desperate times of misinformation and distrust of evidence, satellite imagery is one of the few unbiased sources of information.
Satellite imagery serves two important information channels: First and foremost it supports the Ukrainian defence forces, helping them to get a big picture of troop displacements and other events, helping them to determine their best actions. This is what Polyakov and Fedorov are mostly aiming for. In their calls they invite imagery and processing providers to connect to the defence forces directly.
Secondly there is the relevance of trustworthy information for the world’s press. In a situation where propaganda and deliberate misinformation are used to form false images of reality, in order to justify military actions, there is a great need for unbiased information by reliable sources. Satellite images provide this unbiased contextual information and news outlets publish this information to show what is really happening.
Many space data providers and processors have already pledged their support. This article lists a few of them, helping the press to find these reliable sources of satellite imagery of Ukraine.
Do you know more sources? Please let us know in the comments below this post!
Which satellite companies are making imagery available?
Before and after the call for imagery actually most satellite imagery companies jumped in to show their support. As information from these sources goes directly to the military, either to NATO or the Ukrainian defence forces, much of this remains out of sight of the media. Nevertheless, many organisations have publicly pledged their support and are also supplying information to the press.
EOS Data Analytics
The most outspoken company is EOS Data Analytics, owned by Ukrainian CEO Max Polyakov. The EOS website states that the “EOSDA team has updated its platform to be able to immediately analyse the military situation in an effort to save lives and help bring about peace. Data will be processed, analysed, and shared in real-time with Ukraine’s Armed Forces and humanitarian organizations.”
Even though US-based high-resolution satellite image provider Maxar Technologies has not issued any official statements in relation to the war in Ukraine on its website or social channels, it is one of the key providers of information to both security forces and the media. Since a long time, (inter)national security has been one of their key markets, as can be read in this blog post describing their security capabilities, published last September.
In an interview with SpaceNews on 28 February, Maxar CEO Daniel Jablonsky said that Maxar “has made much of this imagery available to news organizations to support global transparency and combat the spread of disinformation. We are proud of our contributions to the public discourse around this situation and hopeful for a peaceful resolution.”
Maxar provides much of their hi-resolution images to the press, where for example Reuters frequently features Maxar satellite imagery of Ukraine in their handouts, like for example here.
Maxar recently created a partnership programme for ‘trusted and respected’ media organisations, called Maxar News Bureau.
A few days ago, Planet CEO Will Marshall said: “Open-source intelligence is bringing in a new era of transparency and accountability to these world events, and that’s not lost on global leaders”.
Earlier, the company posted: “Sad to see the tragic and deteriorating events in Ukraine. We have and will continue to provide imagery from the region to our partners, aid, relief and human rights organizations, and the media to expose the situation as events unfold. Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine.” (source)
Planet images also prominently feature in media reports, including on their own social media channels, like below example (source).
Today, 3 March 2022, Capella Space CEO Payam Banazadeh said that his company “felt it is important to provide clarity that Capella Space is working directly with US government and Ukrainian government to provide real-time imagery. We will continue to provide imagery to as many entities as we possibly can to support in such difficult times.” (source)
In addition to posting an official statement about this, he emphasised the dedication of his entire team to the war: “
My team at @capellaspace has been working around the clock to provide real time transparency into the invasion of Ukraine. Capella was built to be our eyes in the sky to fight fake news and manipulation. We are here to watch and report, day or night and in all weather.”
In contrast to Maxar and Planet, Capella Space operates SAR radar imagery satellites, that can operate under any atmospheric conditions, and see through clouds. Additionally SAR can be used to detect changes in the landscape, like troop displacements. This all-weather visibility is an important benefit of radar under the typically cloudy winter conditions in Ukraine.
Although there are no official statements on the Satellogic website, Satellogic says on social media that “Satellogic is delivering critical geospatial intelligence to support timely decisions that can help save innocent lives.”. They have posted several images of war-related activities in Ukraine on their channels.
OPT/NET BV is a Dutch AI data processing company, specialising in working with massive datasets and retrieving information. Satellite imagery has always been a key focus point in the platform, where they claim to “generate valuable operational results in hours/days/weeks instead of months/years.”
OPT/NET’s CEO Taras Matselyukh mentioned in a reply to our article yesterday that “we are aware of these sources. One of them will be in the platform soon, as soon as we hear back from them. As I write this, our new information analytics platform is up and running in alpha stage, being cyber-security hardened and many of interested experts will be invited by us for beta testing.”
Bringing satellite and ground data together
For those looking for big-picture overviews of the war in Ukraine, including locations of military activity and occupation of territory by Russian forces, there are several places where ground information is verified (often using satellite imagery and GNSS data) and published on a map.
CIR Russia-Ukraine Monitor Map
The Russia-Ukraine Monitor Map is a crowdsourced effort to map, document and verify information in order to provide reliable information for policymakers and journalists of the on-the-ground and online situation in and around Ukraine.
This map is created by the Centre For Information Resilience (CIR) as part of a wider effort to tackle disinformation and promote transparent and verified information.
New York Times Maps: Tracking the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Another good source of mapped information, combining satellite photos with ground images and videos is the New York Times map of the Russian invasion. This map is not updated live, but frequently enough to watch the situation on a day-to-day basis.
The last source of mapped information is issued by Reuters. Using satellite imagery of Ukraine, ground sources and news reports they provide frequently updated maps of the Russian invasion, not just from a military point of views, but also mapping humanitarian flows, like refugees moving into other European countries.