Home >> July 2022 Edition >> Focus: Unseenlabs
Focus: Unseenlabs
The company developed a new technology using radio frequency (RF) signals detection to geolocate vessels at sea that do not wish to be found.


RF signals detection from space engage in maritime surveillance

Unseenlabs, founded in 2015, is a French company that is based in Rennes, Brittany — the company was created by the three Galic brothers, who had developed a new technology using radio frequency (RF) signals detection to geolocate vessels at sea that do not wish to be found. 

After receiving an award by the French Ministry of Research the year following its creation, a successful fundraising in 2018 allowed Unseenlabs to develop and launch their first satellites. Unseenlabs uses smallsats — cubesats — to provide data to the firm’s private and public clients (governments, shipping companies, NGO, etc.) across the globe. 

Unseenlabs’ monosatellites constellation specifically detects, characterizes and geolocates RF signals coming from a wide range of emitters. The smallsats cover hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of the sea. 

The French company has been fully operational since 2019 and in June of 2022, the constellation is comprised of seven satellites. The company’s aim is to continue to develop the constellation by adding five or six satellites a year — ten more by early 2023 and a complete constellation of about 25 satellites by 2025. After a second 20 million euros fundraising in April of 2021, and after the launch of BRO-1 (BRO stands for Breizh Reconnaissance Orbiter) in 2019, six additional BROs have now been launched into space. 

The initial idea came from an observation concerning vessels at sea, for there was an concerning lack of geolocation data. This was mainly due to the fact that ships may disappear from radars and become invisible. 

This is a serious matter, as these vessels may be engaging in unlawful activities, such as illegal or undeclared fishing, hostile intrusions in waters that are under national jurisdiction (Exclusive Economic Zone, continental shelf, territorial waters), environmental damages (such as illegal discharges), the destruction of sensitive submarine installations (submarine cables and so on), to name but a few. 

Earth’s oceans are an invaluable resource in many ways: they provide food and jobs, they play a key role in climate regulation, harbor more than half of all life on Earth, and they are at the center of the global trading system. 

Yet, as the global fleet keeps growing (more than 90,000 ships in the world’s commercial fleet), the lack of precise and up-to-date ship location data leads to environmental and security issues in both the public and private sectors. Unseenlabs’ aim is to collect a new type of data in order to help overcome these maritime challenges. 

Space-based RF detection is the unmasking, by satellites, of electromagnetic signals emitted by electronic devices from Earth’s surface. Vessels at sea are equipped with many communication and navigation devices that emit — continuously or occasionally –— waves that are propagating themselves at a short, medium or long distance. 

RF satellites are equipped with specific receiving antennas and have the capacity to detect signals over vast areas of Earth’s waterways and oceans. After a sophisticated signal processing, these satellites characterize all these emitters by geolocating them in a precise space-time. Then, they can give any vessel at sea a unique signature — or finger print — to monitor the vessel’s location in real-time. 

Unseenlabs’ one-of-a-kind technology detects every ship emitting RF signals with, or without, an active location beacon, regardless of the time of day, weather conditions or maritime areas being covered. 

With seven satellites, the current revisit time on a zone is around 6 hours (3 hours in 2023 and less than 1 hour in 2025). The geolocation accuracy is close to the nautical mile (2 km.). 

Unseenlabs maritime surveillance service provides maritime players with accurate and up-to- date data on marine traffic. From States willing to better control their territorial waters, to fishing companies wanting to monitor their areas of activity, Unseenlabs collects crucial data for public and private actors, efficiently characterizing all forms of maritime activity and detects emergency situations, as well as illegal or suspect behaviors with great reactivity. 

The company’s operational capacity has major application areas in the following defense and security policies (non-exhaustive list): » The fight against malicious or hostile activities and intrusions in waters under national jurisdiction (Exclusive Economic Zone, continental shelf, territorial waters) » The fight against terrorism at sea and piracy » The protection of the offshore installations (oil rigs, wind farms) » The protection of the main sea routes and sensitive submarine installations (submarine cables, pipelines, underwater acoustic systems, etc.) » The fight against illegal or undeclared fishing Unseenlabs’ goal is to provide essential data to help the firm’s clients in many ways: protection of the oceans, safeguarding of their waters, assistance of vessels in distress, monitoring of maritime traffic, etc. 

Unseenlabs offers a geolocation data service with a focus on maritime emitters, worldwide. This service is available for any sea area across the globe. This service is operational and covers all of the Earth’s oceans. 

A satellite pass over a planned reference point covers large sea areas. Furthermore, the geolocation detection works for all commercial navigation radars, regardless of transmission power or specific parameters. 

Unseenlabs’ maritime operational image enables an immediate detection and characterization of all the radars at sea that do not emit AIS signals, or those whose AIS parameters are inconsistent (spoofing, for example). 

Unseenlabs’ data... 

» Determines patterns of life on poorly known or unknown areas 
» Exposes and characterizes aggressive activities or phenomena (illicit or undeclared) » Follows vessels of interest for intelligence or other action purposes 

For additional, highly relevant information, visit the company’s infosite.