High-cadence imagery and AI-generated analytics track redeployment of Russian military vessels to other Black Sea ports and subsequent hardening of harbor defenses

BlackSky has made available a collection of 20 high-resolution satellite images and AI-generated analytics detailing the scale of Russia’s military withdrawal from the port of Sevastopol following Ukraine’s September 2023 strikes on the Black Sea fleet. 

“BlackSky’s unique ability to deliver dynamic monitoring of ports and other strategic locations at scale through real-time imagery and AI-driven analytics gives customers a true strategic advantage,” said BlackSky CEO Brian E. O’Toole.

Real-time monitoring of Sevastopol

An 18% drop in automated detections of military vessels was observed in the Port of Sevastopol in the months following the strikes. BlackSky Spectra ® generated more than 70,000 automated vessel detections from January 10, 2022, to April 19, 2024. The image collection contains high-cadence, time-diverse imagery taken as early as 7:27 a.m. and as late as 4:03 p.m.

“BlackSky Spectra® can track movements and locations of objects multiple times from dawn to dusk while detecting anomalies as events unfold, providing critical, actionable intelligence on demand for governments and industries worldwide.” 

A recent analysis conducted by the Financial Times with BlackSky images and detection and identification analytics showed the locations and transit patterns of Russian warships as they redeployed to ports in Feodosia and Novorossiysk amid an increase in Ukrainian anti-ship missile and sea drone attacks on the fleet. The imagery also shows an apparent increase in maritime security measures at port and harbor entrances where Russian ships were docked. 

The high-resolution images and analytics are part of a collection of hundreds of images captured from September 2023 until March 2024. 

“Limiting Russia’s freedom of maneuver in the Black Sea has been one of the Ukrainian military’s most impressive achievements,” said Foundation for Defense of Democracies Senior Fellow Mark Montgomery. “The combination of (Ukraine’s) persistent situational awareness, innovative weapon systems and risk-taking tactics has pinned down the Russian Black Sea fleet.”

Ukraine strikes precede retreat

Ukraine attacks on the Black Sea fleet

September 2023 missile attacks conducted by Ukraine destroyed the Russian Black Sea naval HQ building and two nearby dry-docked fleet vessels in the Port of Sevastopol. Left: Early morning imagery showed the Black Sea naval HQ building’s 2,700 square meter roof fully compromised, indicating extensive damage to internal load-bearing structures. Right: Wreckage of The Minsk, a Project 774 Ropucha-class landing ship, and the Rostov-on-Don, a Kilo-class submarine. Visible streams of water jet across the Minsk as first response teams bring shipboard fires under control.

Ukraine’s combat effectiveness has prevented Russia from threatening Ukrainian shores with amphibious assault and allowed Ukraine to continue vital shipments of grain in the Black Sea, added Montgomery.

BlackSky’s Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation offers an industry leading rapid revisit capability that capture images up to 15 times per day, dawn to dusk, with low-latency delivery to end users in under 90 minutes. Unlike traditional satellites that follow sun-synchronous polar orbits (oriented toward the north and south poles), BlackSky’s satellites travel on mid-inclined orbits around the equator, allowing for repeated passes over single location throughout the day.