Vote for your favorite SAR use case


What types of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) use cases are you most interested in?

The diversity of SAR applications means the list of use cases is quite extensive. There might even be examples you’re not familiar with yet.

Through our previous work, we demonstrated how SAR can provide ground-truth information–across a range of fields–not available elsewhere.

But those cases just scratched the surface. Let’s take another look at this topic, inspired by March Madness, an annual rite of passage familiar to our US audience.

We have selected 8 examples that will square off in a tournament to determine the winner.

The bracket below shows the matchups.

SAR Use Cases Tournament 2021-01
We will post each matchup as a poll on LinkedIn and on Twitter starting Monday, February 22. Follow us to stay up to date on the tournament.

With so many options to choose from, the selection process wasn’t easy. A second tournament could even be organized with a whole new group of candidates. So be on the lookout for another version later this year!

Our 8 selections fell into four categories: maritime, environmental, economic and weather-related. Here’s a quick rundown:


The term “dark vessel” is used to describe a ship that turns off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitter, and in some cases, then engages in illegal activity. In these situations, a ship can still be spotted using SAR. Two types of illicit behavior associated with dark vessels are illegal fishing and sanctions evasion.

Illegal fishing threatens the sustainability of fisheries around the world and costs billions of dollars in economic losses each year.

Sanctions enforcement requires vigilance, particularly on the high seas where governments and companies may try to violate rules against trading certain goods.


Oil spills change the surface properties of water, typically resulting in a calmer surface than an area without oil on the surface, allowing SAR to be an effective tool for detection. Pinpointing the location of a spill in near real-time can aid in the clean-up response and spread general awareness.

Deforestation is a major problem facing tropical rainforests, from Brazil to the Central African Republic and Borneo. These places are covered in clouds for most of the year, making optical satellite imagery an ineffective tool for tracking deforestation. SAR, on the other hand, works in any weather, 24/7.


Oil storage levels provide the best indicator for the global supply-demand balance, which in turn is the primary driver of the price of oil. A drawdown signals that supply is less than demand (i.e., bullish for prices), while a build indicates supply is more than demand (i.e., bearish for prices).

Car counting can be applied to different scenarios in which the number of vehicles present at a facility offers valuable insight. For instance, how active are auto manufacturers, and what macroeconomic signals can these provide on a country-by-country basis? Are e-commerce distribution warehouses busy or slow for this time of year?


Flood mapping provides a visualization of areas submerged by water. This can be done at any point during a storm, on account of SAR’s all-weather capabilities, while other methods of collecting information (e.g. optical satellite imagery) must wait until the weather improves, making them less reliable.

Agriculture monitoring based on SAR data can help to predict crop yields and to assess crop damage from weather events. The onset of more extreme weather (e.g. drought, temperature, wind) is wreaking havoc with global agriculture, creating a greater need for satellite-based information that can supplement on-the-ground surveys.

We’d love to hear what you think. Get ready to vote.

Follow Ursa Space’s LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for updates.




Live count of Ursa Space’s SAR + Optical imagery/data catalog

Learn more about our imagery as a service.