BlackSky Technology and Spire Global have collaborated to develop a real-time, commercially accessible Maritime Custody Service (MCS) that can detect, identify and monitor over 270 thousand boats globally in open water, along rivers and canals and when moored.

The MCS detects RF emissions from marine targets using data from Spire satellites and then autonomously tips BlackSky satellites to capture imagery.

After collecting the electro-optical pictures, BlackSky Spectra AI uses artificial intelligence to locate boats, estimate cargo and track change over time.

BlackSky’s chief innovation officer Patrick O’Neil emphasises the new system’s adaptability and how it affects the partnership’s clients: “BlackSky and Spire have developed a very cost-effective and flexible vessel tracking service capable of delivering on-demand maritime intelligence at scale.

“The unique AI-driven system reduces end-to-end latency across the entire tasking, collection, processing, exploitation and dissemination process. With interoperability in mind, the MCS provides an easy-to-use autonomous, continuous and predictive maritime tracking capability directly into customer’s hands.”

Monitoring worldwide marine activities is vital for several reasons, which include ensuring national security, detecting unlawful ship-to-ship transfers and intercepting boats involved in smuggling or sanctions evasion.

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According to a Spire Global whitepaper on “unlocking the power of AI in maritime shipping”, sailors are able to extract an extra 10% of fuel and emissions savings from their voyages “through the power of technology”.

As stated by Spire, the maritime industry is forecasted to spend $2.7 billion annually on AI solutions.