UK defence breakthrough: AI-powered satellites to provide real-time military intelligence

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Developed by BAE Systems, each four-strong “Azalea™” satellite cluster is capable of recording visual, radar and radio frequency data thanks to its varied sensor array. On board artificial intelligence will analyse this information to produce timely, accurate intelligence which can then be communicated to receivers on the ground in real-time. In this way, the setup avoids the delays involved in conventional space-based sensors, which require multiple terabytes of data to beamed down to the Earth before such can be processed — with the transfer process often taking many hours.

In addition, BAE Systems said: “Unlike conventional, single-purpose satellites, the cluster can be fully reconfigured whilst in orbit in the same way a smartphone installs a new app.

“This ensures it can deliver future customer missions and expands the lifecycle of the satellites.”

Dave Armstrong is a Group Managing Director at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, a new wing of the firm specialising in collecting, connecting and understanding complex data.

Mr Armstrong said: “The Azalea™ satellite cluster will process data in space to provide swathes of digital intelligence wherever it’s needed.

“We understand how important space-based intelligence is to every domain, whether that’s informing strategic command, altering an in-area warship or providing real-time intelligence to forces on the ground.

“The launch of Azalea™ in 2024 will be a major step forward for the UK’s sovereign space capability.”

The space cluster, BAE Systems added, “will also boost the UK’s ability to understand the threats and hazards in, from and through space.”

In this way, the programme will support the Government’s Defence Space Strategy, published earlier this year, which identified Earth observation capabilities as a priority for helping to protect and defend the UK’s national interests.

Last year, BAE Systems acquired the British satellite firm In-Space Missions, making it one of a small number of UK companies with the capability to design, build, launch and operate satellites.

BAE Systems said: “The expertise brought by In-Space Missions complements the Company’s existing advanced technologies and will become an integral part of its multi-domain capability.”

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ICEYE CEO and co-founder Rafal Modrzewski said: “ICEYE helps to solve problems using data. There is a clear advantage for governments and organisations to receive accurate information when they need it, regardless of weather conditions — this is what we bring.

“By combining our SAR technology with the security expertise of BAE Systems and the other data sources in the cluster, we can help decision makers make the right choice at the right time.”

Doug Liddle, In-Space Missions chief executive and co-founder, added: “We’re working together to create a step-change in military intelligence and capabilities.

“Our technology will monitor adversaries, but will also provide substantial civil benefits by helping humanitarian response missions.”

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