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Geospatial imagery shows activity at Iranian nuclear facility

July 7, 2021  - By

A team with Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) used BlackSky’s geospatial imagery and burst collection technology to track and monitor activity at a secretive Iranian nuclear facility in a new intelligence study. The study tracks and monitors activity at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran.

Screenshot: Janes.com video/BlueSky

Screenshot: Janes.com video/BlueSky

“The BlackSky/CISAC research team demonstrated the power of combining rapid revisit satellite imagery, human domain expertise and AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning) techniques to identify and understand activity at Natanz, which was previously unknown to much of the world,” said Patrick O’Neil, chief data scientist at BlackSky. “Observations that provide real-time, activities-based insights have the potential to change the world.”

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.

Allison Puccioni, a renowned imagery analyst and BlackSky consultant, assembled a research team at Stanford University, with help from Rose Gottemoeller, diplomat, former NATO deputy secretary, and visiting professor at Stanford. The pair enlisted two principal research assistants in geospatial science to develop a sophisticated 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.

About the Author:


Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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