UNSEENLABS: SATELLITE GEOLOCATION MONITORING ILLEGAL AND ANTI-ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVITIES AT SEA
Photo Courtesy UNSEENLABS
Our oceans play a key role in climate regulation; harbour more than half of all life on Earth; provide us with food and employment; and are at the centre of the global trading system.
Created in 2015 by brothers Clement and Jonathan Galic in their homeland of Britanny (France), UNSEENLABS intends to be a tool to better serve the oceans.
WATERTODAY spoke with both Clement and Jonathan Galic about the passion that fuels their primary goal – taking care of the oceans.
With more than 90,000 ships in the world’s commercial fleet, the lack of precise and up-to-date location of ships leads to environmental and security issues for both public and private sectors.
UNSEENLAB’S proprietary technology ensures the safety of ships while assisting in the prevention of criminal and anti-environmental acts. Sensitive sea areas are controlled precisely and in near real-time. Seeing the unseen.
“In 2015 we were convinced that private companies should serve the rising opportunities to access space, and realized that the three of us combined (our older brother Benjamin is a business lawyer) had all the qualities required to create our own company,” Clement told WT.
Jonathan Galic (left), CTO & Co-founder is a software and hardware engineer specializing in satellite Earth Observation; & Clement Galic (right), CEO & Co-founder is a software,
functional engineer specializing in high-capacity systems both in space and air traffic.
“We have always been passionate about space (as children we read a lot of science fiction) so naturally we came to choose career paths that would allow us to work in that area,” Clement said. - Photo Studio Carlito Courtesy UNSEENLABS
Given the increase in commercial traffic, the stakes involved in protecting the oceans from illegal fishing and other unscrupulous activities has become urgently necessary.
“We had an idea for a satellite payload that would provide a new kind of data with a huge potential market. We really had to start from scratch. In the beginning it was just two brothers with an expensive project.”
In 2016 the brothers won an innovation competition sponsored by the French Ministry which allowed the R & D stage to begin. By 2018 they were able to receive sufficient funding from the first round of financing to launch BRO-1 in 2019.
“The technology we developed allows us to detect all vessels, even those who turn off their transponders: they can’t go ‘dark' anymore,” Jonathan Galic
“Our logo is ‘The Bright Sight’,” Jonathan says. “The whole idea of UNSEENLABS is to bring more visibility to what goes on the open seas – two thirds of our planet where a lot of human activity goes basically unchecked.
“Once ships enter international waters there is very little we can know about what they do precisely. They are required to signal their position at all times with mandatory equipment, but it’s very easy for a captain to turn it off.
“That’s when he goes ‘dark’ and vanishes from the surveillance screens if he intends to fish in a restricted area or dump waste where he’s not supposed to.”
Today, BRO-1, BRO-2 and BRO-3 are in orbit. The Company now has twenty people on the team and is expected to double the workforce every year with a projected 20 satellites by
2025. Photo Courtesy UNSEENLABS
“We are very proud of our BRO satellites – entirely designed in-house and concentrate all the technical innovations we developed and continue to develop,” Clement adds.
Thanks to its proprietary on-board technology based on the identification of electromagnetic waves emitted by ships UNSEENLABS is able to geolocate from space any ship at sea in near real-time to the nearest kilometer
“The technology we developed is based on the detection of Earth emitted radio frequencies from space.
“We chose to apply this technology to maritime surveillance more specifically to the geolocation of vessels at sea when we created UNSEENLABS.”
In 2015 there was a lack of data on vessel activity at sea, partly because the observation satellite technologies existing at the time had inherent limitations.
“Optical imagery (which is broadly pointing a camera on a small zone) is not very efficient for detecting small objects such as ships and is very dependent on weather conditions -- not enough light or clouds prevent seeing anything,” Clement continues.
“SAR technology creates radar images that need a lot of processing and interpretation before giving out any usable information.
“And of course, AI – the system which today is the main tool for vessel detection and tracking can sometimes fail or simply be turned off with a simple push of a button.”
“Our RF detection technology doesn't seek to replace all these existing tools but rather to complement them by filling the gaps.
“With just one satellite acquisition we detect the position of all RF emitters with a one million square kilometer zone, with a precision of one kilometer, whatever the weather/light conditions, and without requiring special equipment to be embarked aboard vessels.
“Moreover, we can attribute a unique signature to each signal we detect, so we’ll know it’s the same vessel if we detect it again later on.”
90% of goods are transported by sea. Pirate ships and illegal vessels are ever-present. All a ship has to do is cut its embedded active beacon to vanish from surveillance screens UNSEENLABS innovative electromagnetic technology enables it to track any vessel, anywhere and at any time when other systems can’t
“All this means we effectively create a whole new layer of information on maritime activity, which when combined with the others creates an enhanced picture of human activity at sea with unprecedented accuracy.”
The Galic Brothers tell us there are countless applications in both public and private sectors.
“Several national maritime law enforcement entities from different countries are interested in our data for safety and security issues, like the detection of illegal fishing activities, trafficking of all sorts, marine pollution, control on restricted areas."
“Private clients may be ship owners, insurance companies, or fishing and offshore energy companies for example – all the players who need accurate and up-to-date information on maritime activity.”
For the moment UNSEENLABS is focused on the fast development of the Company to become the leading maritime surveillance service.
“Of course, our technology has many other potential applications...but one step at a time!”
Photo Courtesy UNSEENLABS
The movie OCEANS, created by UNSEENLABS demonstrates the urgency and passion of the
Founders of the Company to take care of our Oceans .
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