HawkEye 360

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HawkEye 360
IndustryGeospatial analytics
FoundedSeptember 16, 2015; 8 years ago (2015-09-16)
HeadquartersHerndon, VA,
Area served
Key people
  • John Serafini (CEO)
  • Rob Rainhart (COO)
ProductsRF data and analytics
Number of employees

HawkEye 360 is an American geospatial analytics company headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. HawkEye 360 is the first commercial seller of radio frequency (RF) signal location data gathered by a satellite constellation. HawkEye 360 was founded in 2015[1] with a vision to reveal an “invisible layer” of RF information and use this new commercial data to "provide solutions for a better world."[1] HawkEye 360 contends RF geospacial intelligence will provide greater insights into earth's activities and have valuable real-life applications for many sectors. [2]


The beginning

In 2015, HawkEye 360 began with the vision for how space and RF technology could create commercially generated insights by leveraging signal geolocation to enhance understanding of human activities.[3]

Stimulated by the leaps made in the small satellite industry, HawkEye 360 decided to use small satellites to collect and geolocate RF signals for commercial use.[3]

In September 2015, HawkEye 360 was officially launched with initial seed financing from Allied Minds, a Boston-based venture capital firm.[4] [5]

In 2016, HawkEye 360 began contracting the construction of their Pathfinder cluster of satellites with Deep Space Industries (DSI) and UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory (SFL).[6] In November of 2016, HawkEye 360 completed their initial Series A round led by Razor's Edge Ventures with major participation from defense industrial base leader, Raytheon. [7]

While waiting for the satellites to be built and launched, the company began exhibiting their technology through flight demonstrations[8] and received a patent for determining the location of RF transmitters. [1] [9] [10]

HawkEye 360 has an extensive advisory board including former members of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, retired Army and Air Force general officers, and former Intelligence Community leaders. [11][3]


HawkEye 360 is the first commercial provider of space-based RF data and geo-analytics.


The company closed additional A-round fundraising totaling $14.9 million in September 2018, led by Raytheon, and including Sumitomo, Razor’s Edge Ventures, and earlier investors.This funding provided the company with financing to build a second cluster of small satellites. [7]

In December, HawkEye 360 launched the company's first set of small satellites, known as the Pathfinder cluster, into orbit as part of the Spaceflight's SSO-A SmallSat Express ride-share aboard a SpaceX Falcon9[12] [13] Several months after the successful launch of HawkEye 360's satellite cluster CEO John Serafini announced, "'...the satellites are working very well. They are now in commercial service providing data to our customers."' [12]


In April, HawkEye 360 released the company’s first product: RFGeo. This product identifies and locates the RF signals HawkEye 360 collects, so customers can then view this data to have a “more comprehensive view of the world," says John Serafini.[14]

In August, the company raised B-round funding totaling $70 million from investors such as Advance, Airbus Americas, Esri, Razor’s Edge Ventures, and Shield Capital Partners.[15] [16]

In October, HawkEye 360 expanded the company’s signal waveform library to include ultra high frequency (UHF) band and L band frequencies as well as an update to RFGeo, the company’s flagship product. The company’s signal expansion into the UHF band enables monitoring of push-to-talk radios, which have the potential to aid the discovery of cross-border smuggling operations and poaching. The update to RFGeo includes a process to extract vessels' MMSI identifiers embedded into their channel 70 broadcasts. Once this happens, a specific vessel can be matched to its broadcast enabling by emitter tracking of objects. The RFGeo update also includes a catalog of previously collected RF Geo data, so customers can order and access archived data.[17]

In December, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) granted HawkEye 360 a contract[18] to explore combining commercial RF capabilities into NRO’s geospatial intelligence architecture. [19]

Also, in 2019, The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a license allowing HawkEye 360 to eventually launch up to 80 incremental satellites for the eventual steady-state operation of a 15-cluster constellation.[20]


The National Air and Space Museum now has a full-size model of one of HawkEye 360's Pathfinder satellites to display in their museum as part of an upcoming exhibit detailing the story of the space age.[21]

In addition to building HawkEye 360's first satellites, UTIAS Space Flight Laboratories (SFL) is also building the second cluster of three to be launched in late 2020. [20]

In July, HawkEye 360 reported their second cluster of satellites has successfully completed their environmental testing: one of the last technical milestones before the second cluster for launch, which is currently scheduled for a Spaceflight rideshare mission in December 2020 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9.[22] [23]


Collection: satellite constellation

Currently, HawkEye 360 has three small satellites in the Pathfinder cluster orbiting the earth at an altitude of 575 km. In order to precisely trilaterate and map signals, the satellites fly in a special formation facilitated by a unique water propulsion system.[2] [24]

Each satellite (also referred to as a Hawk) in the cluster has a Software-Defined Radio (SDR) with the ability to detect a wide range of radio frequencies, and once all three satellites have picked up on a common signal, they can trilaterate that signal with accuracies dependent upon the terrain, signal, and other factors.[13] [25]

Currently, HawkEye 360 has plans to execute and maintain a 30-satellite constellation, and the company is scheduled to launch new clusters once a quarter starting in early 2021.[12] [26]

HawkEye 360's second satellite cluster will include several improvements: The new satellites have the ability to collect multiple RF signals at one time to create layers of RF information. Each of the satellites also has an improved SDR, so they can collect higher quality data for more accurate geolocation. In addition to this, the satellites have more powerful processing to handle more data . [22] [27]

Data and analytics: signal mapping products

HawkEye 360's uses Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) and Frequency Difference of Arrival (FDOA) to geolocate signals of interest. Then the signal is mapped with an error ellipse showing with a 95% level of confidence where the signal emitter is geographically located. Finally, using machine learning and artificial intelligence, HawkEye 360 can discern patterns and provide insights [24] about changing RF activity.

HawkEye 360 offers three products: RFGeo, RFMosaic and SEAker.[28] RFGeo uses the RF signals collected from the cluster to show customers the location of specific RF emitters in order to provide insights into certain human activities. [28] RFMosaic uses the signals collected to generate a survey of RF activity in a region and the information is displayed as a heat map for intuitive customer use. [29] [30] The SEAker suite of products uses the RF data collected from space to aid customers in maritime visibility. HawkEye 360 combines its RF data with third party data to discover illicit maritime activities such as dark ships and co-traveling. [31] [32]

Solutions: The various sectors


In order to maintain maritime visibility, most vessels are mandated to use Automatic Identification System (AIS) beacons aboard vessels to locate them. Although AIS is a useful tool, there are many ways it can be rendered ineffective. Ships can turn their beacons off effectively making them very difficult to detect and track. Other times, ships will input invalid coordinates (referred to as spoofing), so as to appear miles from their true location. Lastly, in high-traffic areas such as ports, it is difficult to distinguish vessels' signals due to the high density of RF activity.[33]

HawkEye 360 collects and analyzes RF frequencies used by ships for navigation to see vessels true locations and fill gaps in AIS information. HawkEye 360 and others believe this awareness of maritime activity could help in global efforts to combat pirating and illegal fishing.[2][34] [35]

Security and defense

HawkEye 360 also promotes its ability to support security and defense objectives using their commercial, unclassified RF data and analytics.[36]

Specifically, the data can be used to monitor high-risk regions for unusual activity to provide security insights. For instance, HawkEye 360 observed increased RF activity in the Galwan River Valley of the China-India border, enabling tasking of Earth observation imagery that revealed Chinese military buildup in the area that was contributing to regional unrest to include dozens of reported military casualties.[37]

Overall, HawkEye 360 believes it is opening a new information layer capable of monitoring land and maritime activities to support security and defense objectives. [36]


HawkEye 360 uses their RF data and analytics in order to monitor spectrum use. Specifically, the company can detect and monitor spectrum interference, which enables short-term remediation leading to long-term more efficient communication systems.

There is also an opportunity to more effectively plan the ever-expanding spectrum, as monitoring spectrum usage will allow for planners to see in advance which areas have the highest density of RF activity and how spectrum resources can be dynamically deployed for use in that area. [32] Monitoring could also eventually enable telecommunications firms to more easily determine which bands are under-utilized in order to more efficiently deploy spectrum resources. [3]

Crisis response

Using the company’s satellites, HawkEye 360 can locate RF signals emitted by activated emergency beacons which will decrease the time and effort of search and rescue operations. In instances of natural disasters, HawkEye 360 will be able to detect and assess the health of operational towers to ensure access to viable modes of communication for first responders and survivors. [32] [2]


COVID-19 impacts

HawkEye 360 used their RF insights to discover changes in activity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, HawkEye 360 focused on maritime activity along the Italian coast and shipping port activity in Wuhan, China. Using X-band marine radar data from RFGeo, HawkEye 360 identified a 51% decrease in Italian port activity in the days following the countrywide lockdown.[38] Similarly, Wuhan experienced a significant drop in port activity following that region’s lockdown. Despite claims from the Chinese sources of a near full recovery of ports after the lockdown was lifted in April, HawkEye 360 used their RF data to show port activity still remained lower than these claims. [39]

Tracking smuggling

HawkEye 360 collaborated with TankerTracker.com to monitor Iranian ships smuggling crude oil to Syrian refineries. HawkEye 360 and TankerTrackers.com identified several Iranian ships exhibiting suspicious behavior.

Iranian ship Romina arrived in Iranian ports, but weeks later, HawkEye 360 detected this vessel- and others- having reappeared off the coast of Syria. HawkEye 360 used their SEAker product to document the Romina's travel gaps, RFGeo to detect VHF marina signals near Syria, and then partner Earth observation imagery to confirm several vessels docking at a refinery off the coast of Syria.[40]


HawkEye 360 partnered with Garamba National Park to combat elephant poaching within the park.

HawkEye 360 collected RF signals within the park and matched them to reports of employees and elephant locations to identify suspicious activity. The RF data also revealed several poaching patterns and at-risk areas which will help to predict which observed signals could be possible poachers.[41]

In the media



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "About".
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/h/hawkeye
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "New Satellites Will Use Radio Waves to Spy on Ships and Planes" – via www.wired.com.
  4. https://www.americaninno.com/dc/dc-startup/moonshot-hawkeye-360-is-tracking-the-worlds-radio-signals-from-space/
  5. https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/hawkeye-360-2#section-overview
  6. "Deep Space Industries, SFL to Provide Satellites for HawkEye 360's Pathfinder Mission – Parabolic Arc".
  7. 7.0 7.1 https://www.spaceitbridge.com/hawkeye-360-closes-series-a-3-round-raytheon-invests.htm#:~:text=In%20August%2C%20HawkEye%20360%20announced,%E2%80%9D%20%E2%80%93%20now%20announced%20as%20Raytheon.
  8. https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=186545&x=.
  9. "Determining emitter locations".
  10. "HawkEye 360 Competitors, Revenue and Alternatives". growjo.com.
  11. https://www.thecentralvirginian.com/news/state/new-members-join-hawkeye-360s-advisory-board/article_1f09f779-7441-5be6-a8bd-f8cd3e5ac2ec.html
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 "First Hawkeye 360 satellites pinpointing signals". SpaceNews. February 26, 2019.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "HawkEye 360 Announces Successful Launch of First Three Satellites - HawkEye 360".
  14. www.spacenews.com/Hawkeye-360-unveils-first-rf-signal-mapping-product/
  15. "HawkEye 360 raises $70 million Series B financing". SpaceNews. August 6, 2019.
  16. "Advance Acquires Minority Stake in RF Data Analytics Firm HawkEye 360".
  17. Bennett, Adam. "HawkEye 360 Expands Signal Catalog to Address New Markets". ePRNews.
  18. Hitchens, Theresa. "NRO Contracts For Commercial Radio & Radar Sensing".
  19. Sheldon, John (December 18, 2019). "Hawkeye 360 RF Geolocation Company Awarded U.S. National Reconnaissance Office Study Contract". SpaceWatch.Global.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "FCC approves HawkEye 360 application for 15 satellites". SpaceNews. December 19, 2019.
  21. "Satnews Publishers: Daily Satellite News". www.satnews.com.
  22. 22.0 22.1 "HawkEye 360 completes environmental testing of updated satellites". SpaceNews. July 16, 2020.
  23. "Spaceflight Inc. Unveils Next-Gen Orbital Transfer Vehicle to Fly Aboard Next SpaceX Rideshare Mission". www.businesswire.com. July 15, 2020.
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Technology".
  25. https://eijournal.com/print/articles/high-performance-low-cost-attitude-control-and-formation-flying-technologies-key-to-commercial-radio-frequency-signal-mapping-with-small-satellites
  26. Mohney, Doug. "HawkEye 360 starts RF signal monitoring from satellites – Space IT Bridge".
  27. "HawkEye 360 Completes Milestone in Preparation to Launch Second Cluster". July 16, 2020.
  28. 28.0 28.1 https://www.he360.com/our-products/#:~:text=A%20suite%20of%20RF%20analytics%20tools%20to%20empower%20your%20operations&text=HawkEye%20360%20offers%20a%20foundational,data%20layer%20for%20the%20planet.
  29. https://www.nationalacademies.org/event/05-16-2019/docs/D586D9EE3D9F25260AA458A74CA7785690FD9124ED4C
  30. "HawkEye 360 Awards Contract to Build Next-Generation Satellite Constellation to Achieve Rapid Revisit for Global Spectrum Awareness". www.prnewswire.com.
  31. "SEAker™".
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 "SatMagazine". www.satmagazine.com.
  33. Cutlip, Kimbra (August 10, 2016). "AIS | Vessel tracking challenges".
  34. "Maritime".
  35. "SatMagazine". www.satmagazine.com.
  36. 36.0 36.1 "Security and Defense".
  37. DelhiJune 18, India Today Bureau New; June 19, 2020UPDATED; Ist, 2020 08:17. "Bridges, roads, water channelizing machinery: Satellite data shows China's long haul plans in Galwan Valley". India Today.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  38. "When Italy Entered Lockdown, Maritime Traffic was Cut in Half".
  39. "How Can You Gain an Unbiased View of a Pandemic's Impact?".
  40. "Identifying Suspect Iranian Tankers Smuggling Crude to Syrian Refinery".
  41. "Using Radio Frequency Detection to Protect Endangered Wildlife".

External links

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