Image of Sevastopol, Ukraine taken January 27, 2022. © 2022, Planet Labs PBC. All Rights Reserved.
AUTHOR PROFILE Christine Flannery
Curious Planeteer working to make the Earth's changes visible, accessible and actionable.

Top Takeaways from the 2022 GEOINT Symposium


Planeteers recently participated in the largest annual gathering of the geospatial intelligence community at GEOINT Symposium 2022. This year’s conference theme was “The Foundation of Intelligence” – with many sessions focusing on the future of public-private partnerships as they relate to supporting national security missions. 

Here are our top takeaways from the conference:

  1. Increased urgency to further embrace commercial GEOINT capabilities. Most agency and department leaders advocated for and espoused the benefit of increasing the U.S. government’s use of commercial capabilities to advance national security and civil missions. This was true across the spectrum of traditional GEOINT sources and new and emerging technologies on both the collection side and the growing analytic marketplace. This heightened demand presents new opportunities to grow the space industry, as well as increased competition which may lead to more partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions over the coming years.
  1. Attribution is key – both on Earth and in space. During the keynote by Lt. Gen. G. Chance Saltzman of the U.S. Space Force, he emphasized the importance and impactfulness of attribution. “What I mean by [attribution] is the ability to attribute to a specific actor a specific action at a specific time and place. I’ve seen firsthand how the ability to attribute activities changes adversary behavior before the activities are even executed. In short, the ability to attribute deters adversaries, or at the very least constrains their behavior.” Commercial providers like Planet are able to see more than just military activities in Ukraine and Russia – accurate and trusted global data can help expose potential cases of humanitarian violations, and war crimes. The power of commercial data, and especially unclassified data, is a force multiplier in this regard for the building of coalitions, public sentiment, and deterrence.
  1. Significant demand and value realization from the military service community for unclassified, shareable data. The relevance of unclassified commercial satellite data to shape global events has been even more prevalent over the last few months as Planet and other commercial imagery providers support Ukraine and its allies. As Vice Admiral Robert Sharp, outgoing Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), said during his keynote speech, “Publicly available imagery of Ukraine is now providing unprecedented public insight that until recently would’ve been only available through government agencies and officials.” With countless images shared in the news and on social media, the public is able to “see the unseen,” and discredit false narratives and disinformation. General Richard D. Clarke, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), also focused on the importance of information sharing during his keynote. Clarke set the stage for the week with his mug featuring the word “YESFORN,” a play on the NOFORN term meaning no dissemination to foreign nationals, and suggesting yes to international collaboration, information sharing, and support.
  1. The importance of diversity – in intelligence sources and in the workforce. There has been an explosion of growth in collection capabilities and analytics, with no end in sight. The wide range of sensors, radar, radio frequency (RF) and other capabilities have paved the way for more advanced and diversified analytics. And with all of these new GEOINT sources comes the need for a workforce with varying backgrounds, skills, and perspectives. Just days before the GEOINT Symposium, the Taylor Geospatial Institute was launched as a collaboration of eight leading research institutions in the St. Louis area to further the next generation of geospatial technology and technologists. As stated by Tonya Wilkerson, Deputy Director of NGA, “The next generation of STEM leadership looks like America. [They are] Black, brown, white, Asian and American Indian, female, hearing and deaf, abled and diferently-abled and neurodiverse, straight and gay, from inner cities and rural America. And I can’t wait to see what they do next.”

In the Planet exhibit booth, the Solutions Engineering team demonstrated some of the top use cases of Planet data for defense and intelligence. A few notable demos included monitoring intentional flooding around Kyiv, Ukraine, port monitoring with space FMV, identifying illegal maritime oil transfer, detecting change of construction activities and military equipment, and sub-daily monitoring of ports, airfields, and troop movements. The Planet team also had the opportunity to highlight some of our latest product announcements like our next-generation high-resolution fleet Pelican and PlanetScope 8-band. 

As part of Planet’s commitment to increasing collaboration with the geospatial intelligence community, we recently expanded our USGIF footprint as a Strategic-Level Member. “Planet has been a USGIF partner for many years and we are thrilled at the expanded opportunity for engagement. Having Planet join the Foundation as a Strategic-Level Member is truly a big deal for us,” stated Ronda Schrenk, USGIF Chief Executive Officer. Planet looks forward to continuing to work with government and industry partners to address national security challenges.

See you next year at GEOINT 2023 in St. Louis!