Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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Threat Detection

With water covering about 70 percent of the planet, maritime domain awareness is one of the most important activities undertaken by national and international agencies. Traditionally, maritime security agencies have relied on surveillance aircraft, ships following patrol patterns and coastal radar to search for suspicious vessels and activities. Typically this approach is weather dependent, expensive and reliant on limited resources.

Dark (nonreporting) vessels are indicated with yellow icons in the MDA BlueHawk display. The white information window for this dark vessel shows its radar image, observed length and observed heading.

To help address these challenges, MDA has developed MDA BlueHawk, a multisensor, unclassified maritime domain awareness and threat detection solution that provides navies, coast guards, customs, law enforcement, and fisheries with immediate access to broad-area maritime surveillance across their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and global areas of interest. Fusing space-based radar, automatic identification system (AIS) data, vessel registries and other maritime information, MDA BlueHawk delivers the information and tools to help customers detect potential threats.

MDA BlueHawk Solution Overview

MDA BlueHawk allows users to detect nonreporting “dark” vessels, validate reporting vessels, and identify oil slicks, weather and other events. MDA BlueHawk provides open-ocean and coastal coverage by exploiting and fusing data from multisensor, space-based satellite synthetic aperture radar (SAR), satellite and terrestrial AIS, vessel registry data and other contextual data.

MDA BlueHawk Benefits

MDA BlueHawk offers national and international maritime agencies an efficient, cost-effective way to improve overall maritime domain awareness. Key benefits include:

Access a maritime picture covering vast maritime regions.

•    See across an EEZ and globally, including open oceans

•    See beyond aircraft patrol boundary limits

•    See nonreporting vessels, which may be the greatest threat

•    See predicted routes and historical tracks of ships

•    See oil slicks in areas of interest and identify the most likely polluters

•    Use high-resolution images to identify possible vessels of interest

Better use existing assets with queued dispatch.

Benefit from rapid tasking and response of RADARSAT-2, allowing for approximately 30-90 minute latency from the time of satellite imaging until new vessel information is provided in the Common Operating Picture, which can be further reduced to less than 15 minutes with local ground station support.

Send patrol assets directly to suspicious vessels, rather than patrolling empty ocean, resulting in extended range, more time “eyes on” target and reduced fuel burn. With operating costs of maritime patrol aircraft averaging $7,500 to $11,000 per hour, the savings can be significant.

Leverage all-weather broad-area maritime surveillance.

•    RADARSAT-2’s SAR sensor allows for day or night imaging, independent of weather conditions, and provides coverage of any commercial SAR sensor.

•    MDA BlueHawk can incorporate data from other sensors (TerraSAR-X, COSMO-SkyMed, optical) to improve coverage and revisit based on customer requirements.

Identify potential threats close or far from shore.

•    Use geofencing to send alerts when high-risk vessels are heading toward national areas of interest.

•    Assess threats through intent analysis.

Share information with other team members, agencies or governments.

•    Unclassified data sources enable teams from multiple jurisdictions to share information and collaborate.

•    Web browser-based service can be deployed immediately, with no IT investment or maintenance

MDA BlueHawk in Action

Delivered as an online hosted solution, a customer-managed implementation or a data feed into an existing end-user system, MDA BlueHawk offers an implementation model that works with any customer’s environment. MDA BlueHawk is fully operational and used by several key customers.

For more information, please contact



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