Airbus Defence and Space showcased during their South African Defence Day 2018 held in Pretoria recently, a portfolio of new satellite-based solutions to the South African military and other institutions. Airbus offers a wide range of earth observation satellite capabilities and services that have seen steady growth within the African market. In March 2015, the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) received its license for the SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 satellites, which within three months produced nationwide coverage (1 221 000 km²) at a 1.5m resolution. Imagery from the SPOT 6/7 have since been used by various government departments. Airbus Defence and Space’s African footprint includes Egypt’s Nilesat, Algeria’s ALSAT 2A, and Morocco’s MOHAMMED VI-A, to name a few.
“We can provide command and control systems and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems,” said Airbus Defence and Space Intelligence Head of Systems and Solutions, Emmanuel Flory. These all form part of the new satellite-based solutions on offer to South Africa. According to Flory, their offerings are divided into four business sections namely: Space Systems, Military Aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Systems, and Communications Intelligence and Security. These offerings include a vast range of products and services that expand their intelligence portfolio based on their optical and radar satellites, which cover both data collection and the monitoring and analysis of information.
Airbus plans to expand further into massive intelligence and machine learning data analytics. According to Airbus: “The future lies in the capability to securely process and fuse massive volumes of multi-source data and to perform predictive analysis.” Earlier this year Davis Cook, CEO of the Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS) said: “The value that earth observation data can provide in creating meaningful change to society is increasing by the day - new digital technologies such as machine learning are giving us unprecedented insight into the world around us.”
Massive intelligence solutions can be used in the monitoring of conflict, crisis and embargo, terrorism threats, damage assessment, natural disaster response, and border surveillance amongst others. An example of Airbus’ satellite offering being used as a border surveillance capability is at the Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe. The high-resolution imagery from Pléiades provides a 50cm resolution zoom level to detect possible illegal border-crossing areas, new roads and tracks, changes, and more.
Airbus is optimistic that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as well as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will make use of their other satellite-based solutions. Airbus is also in discussions with other African countries, such as Namibia and the Gulf of Guinea for maritime security satellite solutions. By 2022, Airbus Defence and Space plans to have 14 satellites in orbit, adding the Pléiades Neo constellation to their portfolio. Airbus Defence and Space is set to display its Agri solution and OneAtlas digital platform for imagery at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) Exhibition in September this year.
Written by Elné Potgieter for Satovarac Consulting
Image courtesy of Airbus