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  • Writer's pictureTravis Turgeon

Tip and Cue Monitoring Applications

"While ‘Tip and Cue’ monitoring can support numerous applications for various end users, including governments, militaries, and private organizations, some of the biggest capabilities lie with vessel tracking and monitoring."

The world is evolving at a record pace, and now more than ever, we need technological tools and applications to solve the challenges of global growth and change.

Enter Tip and Cue monitoring.

Tip and Cueing is a term that describes the process of monitoring a point or object of interest using satellites and other aerial crafts. In tip and cue monitoring, satellites, planes, helicopters, and unmanned aircraft like drones work together to effectively (and affordably) monitor a subject or location using optical and SAR sensors to collect and transmit data to end users for analysis.

The process hits the nail on the head when it comes to identifying and tracking objects in some of the world’s most remote locations - particularly the oceans.

By using more affordable earth observation and optical sensor technologies to narrow down a scope of interest, users can then proceed to use the more expensive methods of identification and monitoring sparingly, ultimately providing the bandwidth and access to insights unseen without the approach.

Now, let’s take a bit of a deeper dive into how tip and cue monitoring works and identify some of the most beneficial use cases for the strategy.

How Does Tip and Cue Monitoring Work?

Tip and Cue monitoring typically starts with a satellite or aircraft equipped with low-resolution optical sensors that have a high field of view. Since these sensors are low-resolution and can cover a wide area of interest, the cost of using the technology is much lower than using high-resolution, high-capability sensors.

The imagery/data collected by the first satellite or aircraft with optical sensors is the ‘Tipping’ component of Tip and Cueing. The imagery from these sensors is relayed to a ground station, where users can analyze the data and make informed decisions on how to proceed with ‘Cueing.’

Analysis of the ‘Tipping’ data often enables users to identify specific information regarding suspicions of a point or object of interest, such as an object's dimensions, speed, or trajectory, which then allows them to make a more precise arrangement for follow-up identification or monitoring.

Once the ‘Tipping’ data is analyzed and the scope of interest is narrowed or defined, users can then deploy follow-up ‘Cueing’ satellites to gather more accurate data. The ‘Cueing’ satellites are typically equipped with high-resolution SAR sensors, which have the ability to bypass standard optical sensing limitations.

While highly useful, standard optical sensors can not overcome certain environmental parameters. Cloud cover, high-intensity ambient light, the lack of light, and the effects of strong storms all prohibit optical remote sensors from delivering the data required for specific applications like identification and monitoring. Optical remote sensing also fails to deliver specific insights into things like water quality, soil quality, and plant health. This is why SAR sensors are so valuable for these types of applications.

SAR sensors bypass the limitations of optical sensors, as they can see during the night, see through cloud cover, and track fast-moving objects in an area of interest. They can also deliver accurate, timely data on environmental parameters like soil, water, and vegetation.

Beneficial Tip and Cue Applications

While ‘Tip and Cue’ monitoring can support numerous applications for various end users, including governments, militaries, and private organizations, some of the biggest capabilities lie with vessel tracking and monitoring.

Still, you should be aware of the available and potential use cases, which we cover in more detail below.

Vessel Identification and Monitoring (Dark Vessels)

Among the most beneficial use cases for Tip and Cue monitoring is vessel identification and monitoring - particularly for dark vessels. Dark vessels are those ships operating at sea without the use of their Automatic Identification Systems (AIS).

This strategy is used by owners and operators of ships looking to execute illicit or illegal activity at sea and could include reasons like sanctions avoidance, IUU fishing, or human trafficking.

Since dark ships are nefariously difficult and expensive to identify and track in real-time, the use of ‘Tip and Cueing’ provides users with a “one of a kind” solution that won’t break the bank. Rather than utilizing an unknown amount of manpower and human interaction, ‘Tip and Cueing’ simplifies the process by monitoring a large area where dark vessels are suspected of operating.

Ultimately, users potentially save hundreds, if not thousands, of man hours and cut costs by only operating satellites when and where they know they will deliver impactful data.

New Construction and Land Use Changes

In February, BlackSky satellites captured imagery of the suspected construction of a submerged Chinese naval base off the coast of southern Cambodia. The geospatial satellite imagery showed a massive land clearance and the construction of a pier deep enough to service aircraft carriers.

The imagery comes after reports from 2022 that China was leasing a pier on the island of Sihanoukville, and while reports of the new Chinese construction for a military base have been adamantly denied by the Cambodian government, it leaves US and EU officials suspicious of the events.

This situation is a perfect example of how ‘Tip and Cueing’ can be utilized for ongoing construction and land use monitoring. While the primary location for the suspected events is known, ‘Tipping’ will still come into play as a valuable asset - letting users monitor different operation areas that could align with material delivery and construction.

Undoubtedly, users will also closely monitor the site in Sihanoukville with SAR sensors to gain insight into the ongoing construction.

Agriculture and Vegetative Health

Another highly beneficial use case for “Tip and Cueing’ involves agricultural oversight. It’s no secret that the global population is booming, and global food producers are tasked with overcoming monumental challenges.

By monitoring agricultural fields with “Tip and Cue’ technologies, specifically SAR sensors, farmers and food producers can monitor environmental parameters and increase their yields without the external inputs that take such a negative toll on our natural resources and ecosystems.

‘Tip and Cueing’ can be used to monitor environmental parameters like crop pests and diseases, soil temperatures, vegetative production, and more - giving insights that help optimize yields and prevent loss.

Oil and Gas

Another highly-useful area of interest for ‘Tip and Cueing’ is monitoring oil and gas sites. Users can monitor oil and natural gas pipelines, oversee infrastructure expansion, and mitigate operational risks involved with extraction and delivery.

High-resolution sensors not only allow consistent monitoring for on-site operations but also gives valuable insight into finding and analyzing the feasibility of potential extraction sites. The data can also be used for GIS mapping, which helps assess things like elevation, weather, and landscape conditions.

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