/* */

10 March 2008

Applications in commercial overhead imagery for stability and support operations

We continue to be impressed with the uses for commercial overhead imagery which the private sector now increasingly relies upon in an astounding array of situations. While none of these applications are new from the perspective of an intelligence community which has been employing national technical means to similar ends for decades, their independent re-discovery in the outside world, and operationalization in support of crisis situations, remains fascinating from the perspective of intelligence studies scholarship.

The most recent example comes from the conflict in Chad - which provides an excellent and evolving unclassified teaching case to explore the issues involved in small wars and destabilizing countries, particularly for the unique kinds of intelligence support required in noncombatant evacuation operations and other stability and support missions. UNOSAT has recently released a series of products derived from commercial satellite data which attempt to estimate the scale of urban evacuation of the capital of N´Djamena.

In the long ago forgotten history of commercial satellite imagery in the 1990’s, many early papers were written describing the potential impact that the availability of these then futuristic capabilities would have on the international community’s attempts to assess these kind of crisis events – which were frankly the dominant mission of the day. While many crises have come and gone since then, we have seen only a few efforts truly utilize open source imagery analysis during such events to produce truly effective intelligence support. This is a fundamentally different order of thing than how most NGOs and press organizations have attempted to use imagery, and the team which generated it is to be commended for their work. It should also be held up as a model to be emulated in future crisis situations by both the NGO and the PMC sectors; and as such studied by future generations of analysts that may find themselves employed as intelligence professionals in those sectors.

h/t War and Health

Labels: , , , ,