Imagery intelligence, or IMINT, defines the practice of extracting information from pictures taken from an aerial point of view, and is often used to describe intelligence originating from Earth observation (EO) satellites, using optical or radar sensors.

The benefits of IMINT are manyfold, including being able to operate at distance, removed from physical boundaries, and capable of providing daily revisits of any point on Earth. With a few exceptions (nations able to use missiles to disable a satellite), IMINT is also out of reach of enemy air defences – making it critical for a wide range of military decision-making.

Historically, IMINT had always been the domain of state-employed specialists and skilled experts, reserved for governments and institutions that operated their own satellite fleets, who would write the doctrine of use, and recruit and train the dedicated personnel required to maximise the value of the imagery. However, over the last three decades, there has been a shift to commercial players, such as Airbus, providing these services. This has been driven by the explosion in available data, combined with a lack of resources within defence departments and lower investment in algorithmic-based solutions.

The entry point for commercial providers was often through requests for intelligence at the lower end of the sensitivity spectrum. However, commercial efficiencies mean that MoD customers quickly see the benefit of subcontracting ever-increasing levels of their IMINT activity. Notable players in this market, such as Airbus Defence and Space, have long been used by governments, working under accreditation level, and with secured communication infrastructure to send and receive the requests. As a result, basic demands have moved to address new classified topics, highly-sensitive areas and high-value situation reports.

The recent launch of Airbus’ OneAtlas platform (which provides unique access to its archives, instant tasking, basemap layers, and a suite of thematic services for a breadth of vertical markets) has helped create a strong level of interest from traditional defence customers. Likewise, there is growing demand for algorithms of automatic change detection and military-like situation reports – both areas where Airbus and its partners excel.

Hundreds of situation and intelligence reports are created by Airbus every year, so many in fact that a dedicated service has emerged – evolving to be more standardised, intuitive and faster than ever. Today, thanks to its unique constellation of satellites, and a large team of true GEOINT experts, Airbus Defence and Space’s new Smart Report service provides its customers with a bespoke, detailed and accurate insight into their area of interest or specific challenge.

Smart Report is specifically relevant for projects with more complex requirements, where the customer knows the area they want to investigate and have specific questions that require detailed, evidence-led responses. By fusing multiple intelligence sources, combined with the insight and expertise of Airbus’ team of geospatial analysts, and the latest in change detection algorithms and machine learning, Smart Report provides the intelligence required for informed decision-making to help meet complex operational challenges within defence applications.