BlackSky Blog

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by | Mar 10, 2023

Insight on the mississippi river drought pt. 2: predicting and averting commodity movement disruptions

From the consumer to the c-suite, supply chain bottlenecks have become an increasingly common concern. Data science sheds light on dark corners, such as blind spots an environmental challenges, but falls short without relevant data and flexible data capture capabilities. Additionally, static intelligence-gathering techniques often miss real-time fluctuations of on-the-ground conditions.

The ongoing Mississippi River drought provides a case study on how supply chain challenges manifest in the market. Dry bulk commodity availability varies as the drought changes ship movement up the river.

The drought not only affects vessel movement, but cargo and port access. The lower water level restricts traffic – leading to congestion delays – and limits the bulk goods capacity of barges. Anticipating these fluctuations is key to better controlling cost increases and price spikes.

For accurate prediction of commodity volume and price patterns, real-time monitoring is needed. Advances in dynamic, location-based monitoring from space enable new data collection capabilities that go beyond on-the-ground feeds. These Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven capabilities leverage analytics to interpret changes in commodity supply chains over time. The resulting insights open the door to business decisions that anticipate these changes and make location-based intelligence more accessible and useful for tackling commercial challenges.


Tracking vessel motion and stockpile status

Achieving continuous visibility into vessel movement and stockpile levels ensures that decisions are made using real-time information.

Satellite imagery and advanced analytics monitor sites over time to provide continuous insights into dry goods stockpiles. With these additional capabilities such as vessel motion detection, decision makers receive much richer information than the current methods of static intelligence-gathering.


Monitoring meaningful locations and intervals

A critical challenge in effective and efficient monitoring is knowing precisely where to monitor and with what frequency. New space and terrestrial sensor networks combined with Machine Learning (ML) can be used to define meaningful intervals to build real-time geospatial intelligence.

Tip and Cue is a key approach to building this new intelligence. One satellite captures multiple images from different angles, then instructs the next satellite to capture images as it passes. This can be applied to vessels on the Mississippi River to discover delays and port backlogs.

Resulting images and data enable analytics along corridors, such as the Mississippi River path. AI-driven monitoring provides time series imaging that can be used to track construction projects over time, such as ports and storage facilities along the river. This capability helps manage pattern-of-life changes for grain elevators, refineries, coal terminals, and vessels that are moving or waiting to dock at port.


When the 30,000-foot view gives the most detailed market intelligence

Although satellites are orbiting much higher than the proverbial 30,000 feet, satellites coupled with on-demand tasking and a robust analytics platform provide the ability to know and understand detailed and nuanced changes occurring far below on earth.

In the case of assessing commodity flows in and around the Mississippi River during the drought, location-based intelligence includes the following:

  • Automated feature recognition and count
  • Detecting motion and velocity changes
  • Deducing the cargo load on containers and vessels on the water over time

Those first to embrace location-based monitoring from space will have a head start in anticipating fluid conditions on the ground. Adopting strategies that use this burgeoning technology will minimize bottlenecks, avoid unexpected costs, and enable more prudent commodity trading — thanks to BlackSky’s reliable and dynamic hourly monitoring of changing conditions at any location around the world, from dawn to dusk.

To learn how real-time geospatial intelligence can help inform your supply chain decisions, watch Using BlackSky to Gain Stockpile Commodity Insight on the Mississippi River from a recorded LinkedIn Live or contact us here.