Our Eyes Can’t Blink

Stephen Wood, Vice President, DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center

Over the last few days, DigitalGlobe has worked with our partners at the Satellite Sentinel Project to release two urgent, new reports on the recent violence in the contested Abyei region of Sudan. Before the weekend, our satellite images showed evidence of increased military buildup in the region and, in the village of Maker Abior, evidence of burned civilian dwellings known as tukuls. This visual evidence corroborated on-the-ground reports stating that the village was burned by armed Misseriya on March 2. Over the weekend we found evidence of two new burned villages, Todach and Tajalei. The images of these villages, analyzed by DigitalGlobe, UNITAR/UNOSAT and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, showed once again that tukuls were being systematically destroyed, causing civilian deaths and tens of thousands of people to be displaced.

Since the beginning of the year, DigitalGlobe has collected more than 1.7 million square kilometers of imagery across Sudan, focused on the existing and emerging hotspots across a country with a total land mass of 2.3 million square kilometers. We’ve collected, processed, analyzed and delivered imagery and information in record time, given the urgency of the situation and the need to demonstrate to both sides that the world is watching. I am proud of the work we’ve done, excited that we are making such critical efforts and contributing to an important cause.

People are often fascinated by the work that goes on at DigitalGlobe. We’re asked, “You work for a company with a Mission Control Center? You actually launch satellites? Watch the world from outer space?!” Sometimes I’m even asked if it’s like working at a super-secret spying operation, where we can see into people’s houses. I have to laugh at the kind of question, because of course we can’t and no, we don’t.

But we do keep a constant eye on the planet, to gain early insights into the business, market, environmental and political changes that impact people around the world. That’s why we are keeping such a close eye on Sudan. It may be hard to watch, to look at an image and know someone’s home is gone, a livelihood destroyed, that many lives have been lost. All involved are seeking the truth in pictures, and delivering valuable information and insight to both sides of the country. We certainly hope that one day, peace will come to this nation.

One thing is certain: we’ll never stop watching.

The views expressed in this posting are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of DigitalGlobe.