Last Tuesday, one of our analysts in the DigitalGlobe Analysis Center made an impressive discovery –finding the first Chinese aircraft carrier (known as the Varyag or the Shi Lang) underway in the middle of the Yellow Sea during its second sea trial , in the midst of fairly heavy cloud cover of one of our QuickBird satellite images. Since we (and many others around the world) have been interested and watching the ship during its nearly decade-long refurbishment, we knew we’d found the Varyag. Knowing the strategic significance of the ship, we were certain that people around the world would be very interested in seeing this historic image of the Varyag underway. By now, you have surely seen our imagery and story in the news over the past week (in AP, MSNBC, Nightly News, and countless other outlets).
I’m proud of our discovery and imagery for a number of reasons. It really is reflective of what the Analysis Center has been involved in throughout 2011. We’re monitoring issues literally around the world that matter to people on a global scale (just think of the countless events associated in Egypt, Yemen, Syria and many other countries in the “Arab Spring,” the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami, dramatic flooding in the Midwest, fires in the Southwest and so many other notable events this year). My team continually employs DigitalGlobe’s core assets—our satellites, our ground architecture and powerful web infrastructure to help explain what happened and why it matters. The Varyag is just one small extension of those attributes – just one event of the dynamic world that we’ve kept track of during 2011. The Varyag find also serves as a tribute to the analysts who are hard at work in our Analysis Center. As I told Alan Boyle with MSNBC, despite our powerful technological advancements that we use every day, the ship was identified using a combination of our satellite imagery open-source material on the internet, and geography; however, at the end of the day, it still comes down to a person and in our case—analysts.
To help me make my point, take a look at this first image of the cloud cover over the Yellow Sea on December 8 (when the first satellite in our constellation, QuickBird, snapped this shot). See if you can see the Varyag?