Eye in the Sky

The launch of small satellites could potentially bring illegal fishing and other illicit criminal enterprises to their knees. While a bit over-optimistic in my opinion, this article from Popular Mechanics about the latest development in satellite technology is very informative. Click on the link to find out more:

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How Small Satellites Will Help Police Earth’s Vast Oceans

SpaceX’s December launch kickstarted a new era of global surveillance.

By David Hambling

Feb 4, 2019

The oceans are just too big to police—and if you want just one example, consider fishing.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing nets up to 26 million tons of fish each year, which adds up to almost a quarter of the profits of legal fishing. Powered by a shadow fleet, this multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise hurts legit fishermen and wreaks environmental havoc through overfishing.

The vastness of earth’s open waters allow such a black market to thrive. But in a world increasingly surveilled by satellites in low-Earth orbit, technology is making a once impossible mission a little less impossible.

In the Beginning

On December 3, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket broke records by placing 64 small satellites into orbit with just one mission. And among this new space flotilla were small satellites representing the vanguard for a new generation of global surveillance.

Hungry for more data, Global Fishing Watch, a collaboration among conservation group Oceana, technology giant Google, and environmental nonprofit SkyTruth, is eager to use those new satellites to see “all the ships, all the time,” creating an indispensable tool for catching illegal activity on the high seas.

“It is now within the foreseeable future that you can expect to be able to track every vessel on the surface of the earth,” says Tony Long, Global Fishing Watch’s CEO.

In 2016 Global Fishing Watch started with data from the radio beacons all ships carry to avoid collisions, mapping their movements to spot fishing in illegal areas. However, ship captains can counter such surveillance by simply turning the beacons off—a potentially dangerous measure that removes them from the map.

Read more….

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