PierSight Wins US & India Challenges (INDUS-X) for Oil Spill Detection

PierSight emerged as the only company to win both US & India challenges at the prestigious DIU-IDEX Maritime Challenge.

PierSight Wins US & India Challenges (INDUS-X) for Oil Spill Detection
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We're thrilled to share a watershed moment in our journey – a dual victory at the prestigious DIU-IDEX Maritime Challenge hosted by the U.S. and India. PierSight emerged as the only company to win in both nations, marking a significant milestone for our dedicated team.
More importantly, this strongly validates the need for persistent monitoring of the oceans to detect and monitor oil spills.

Six Months Ago…

We started in September 2023, just a few days shy of six months. But it feels longer. Reflecting on this journey, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. We tried to capture some of the milestones, but it doesn’t do justice to all the excellent work our team is doing behind the scenes. The fruits of that labor will be realized when we launch our demo mission aboard ISRO’s POEM platform.
Sep 1, 2023
Started working fulltime on PierSight.
Sep 6, 2023
Moved to Los Angeles for the Fall ‘23 batch of Techstars Space Accelerator.
Sep 27, 2023
Announced our pre-seed of $600k led by All In Capital and participation from Techstars, Andreas Klinger, Vismay Agrawal, and Nikunj Jalan.
Dec 31, 2023
Ended the year with a team size of 8 people across India & US
Jan 9, 2024
Raised a seed round of $6M co-led by Alpha Wave Ventures and Elevation Capital with participation from existing investor Techstars.
Feb 20, 2024
PierSight won both the Indian and US challenges organized by DIU-IDEX for Detection of Oil Spills.
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The DIU-IDEX Maritime Challenge & INDUS-X Initiative

The DIU-IDEX Maritime Challenge, a cornerstone of the INDUS-X initiative, is a beacon of the U.S. and India's partnership. This initiative aims to catalyze innovations that amplify maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) tools.
The challenge presented to participants was to devise a cutting-edge solution for detecting oil spills in near-real-time, a historically challenging task for the maritime industry with far-reaching implications for environmental security.
Here are the technical requirements that any proposed solution needs to meet:
  • Integration of Sensor Streams: The solution must integrate multiple sensor streams to detect significant oil spills over 100,000 gallons.
  • Utilization of Advanced Technologies: It should employ a suite of technologies, including X-band radar, electro-optical and low-light cameras, and satellite capabilities.
  • Detection and Geolocation: The capability to detect, geolocate, and trace the oil spill region was essential.
  • Characterization of Oil Spills: The system must distinguish between natural and human-made oil spills.
The challenge also highlighted several desired features:
  • Broad Detection Range: Solutions should be capable of detecting minor spills (0 – 10,000 gallons) and medium spills (10,000 – 100,000 gallons).
  • Forecasting Ability: The technology should forecast the direction and speed of the oil spill spread.
  • Density Assessment: It should assess the density of the oil spill.
  • Response Recommendations: The solution should provide recommendations for the preferred responses to the oil spill, including containment and cleanup strategies.
  • Rapid Detection: Achieving detection in less than 6 hours from the spill's origin was a critical benchmark, emphasizing the need for swift action.
With these technical stipulations in mind, PierSight created a solution that addressed these challenges head-on and pushed the boundaries of what was possible in maritime surveillance technology.

Our Winning Approach

Considering the challenge's technical requirements, we deployed a multi-sensor fusion algorithm that seamlessly integrates data from various cutting-edge sources. Here’s how we did it:
  • Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR): We harnessed the power of SAR technology to provide high-resolution images vital for detecting oil spills in all weather conditions and across day and night cycles.
  • Multispectral Sensors: By capturing data across multiple electromagnetic spectrum bands, these sensors are instrumental in analyzing the physical properties of oil spills.
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  • Data Cube Creation: We went beyond mere data aggregation by strategically fusing diverse sensor inputs into a novel data cube, extracting features that significantly enhance our detection capabilities.
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  • Machine Learning: Advanced machine learning techniques interpret the sensor data, providing near real-time analytics for rapid oil spill detection and characterization.
  • Proof of Concept: Our initial work with Sentinel-1 SAR datasets yielded a demonstration model capable of detecting the presence, geolocation, and even the thickness of oil spills.

The Technical Edge

Our technical prowess lies in the art of precision and the science of innovation. Here's a glimpse into the technological edge we've honed at PierSight:
  • SAR Systems: Our specialized airborne and spaceborne SAR systems offer continuous ocean surveillance, delivering near real-time imaging irrespective of weather conditions.
  • Sensor Fusion Methodology: The strategic fusion of X-band SAR, UVIR, and hyperspectral multispectral sensors into a unified data cube drastically reduces false positives and ensures reliable detection.
  • Machine Learning Algorithms: We employ sophisticated algorithms to analyze the fused sensor data, culminating in a system that detects and provides actionable intelligence on oil spills.
  • Synthetic Data Training: To overcome the scarcity of training data, we generate synthetic yet realistic oil spill data to bolster our model's robustness and predictive accuracy.
Synthetic Data Training
Synthetic Data Training
This blend of SAR technology and advanced machine learning algorithms is the cornerstone of PierSight's approach, ensuring we stay at the forefront of maritime surveillance technology.

The Impact of Victory

Our recent success in the DIU-IDEX Challenge is not merely a token of recognition; it's a pivotal moment that propels PierSight into a future where our technology plays a crucial role in maritime security and environmental stewardship. Winning this challenge is a testament to the potential of our technology to effect positive change on a global scale.
The recent oil spill crisis off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago on February 7, 2024, tragically underscores the urgent need for the kind of technology PierSight is pioneering. The spill, caused by a mysterious shipwreck near the Cove Eco-Industrial Park, stretched approximately 160 kilometers off the coast, according to Sentinel-1 SAR satellite data. This catastrophe highlighted the critical need for rapid detection and response capabilities to mitigate environmental disasters.
Sentinel-1 used SAR to capture images of the oil spill in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Tobago island
The incident demonstrated the importance of persistent monitoring and near real-time data that our SAR and multispectral sensor fusion algorithm can provide. Such advanced surveillance could have detected the spill sooner and offered vital information to guide the response efforts effectively. By pinpointing the location and spread of the oil, responders can deploy cleanup operations with precision, potentially saving vast stretches of marine ecosystems from irreversible damage.
Winning the DIU-IDEX Challenge is the first step towards realizing our vision of building a persistent monitoring infrastructure. Our technology is poised to become indispensable for governments and environmental agencies worldwide, allowing them to detect and combat oil spills with unprecedented speed and accuracy.
As we look to the future, we are motivated by the belief that this award is just the beginning. It validates the need for advanced oil spill detection solutions and reinforces our commitment to providing the tools necessary to protect our oceans. We are dedicated to refining our technology, expanding our capabilities, and collaborating with global partners to ensure that incidents like the one in Trinidad and Tobago can be addressed with the urgency and efficiency they require.

Next Steps for PierSight

With the wind in our sails from this victory, we are already charting our course for the future. Our roadmap includes the launch of our demo satellite on the ISRO's PSLV Orbital Experimental Platform (POEM) later this year.
Our collaborations with the Indian Coastguard (for commercializing this solution) and other strategic partners are more vital than ever.
Our journey so far has been nothing short of exhilarating, and we owe much of our success to our incredible team, a fantastic set of investors and mentors, supportive partners, and visionary challenge organizers.

Closing Remarks

As founders, we're not just technology enthusiasts but advocates for our oceans' health. With every satellite we launch and every algorithm we perfect, we're one step closer to our goal: safer, cleaner seas. Follow our voyage into the future of maritime surveillance, where innovation meets conservation.
We hope you enjoyed reading about our story as much as we enjoyed writing this chapter in maritime history. Stay tuned for what's on the horizon for PierSight, where every breakthrough brings us closer to our blue planet's protection.

Written by

Gaurav Seth
Gaurav Seth

Gaurav is CEO and Cofounder of PierSight. He spent nine years at Indian Space Research Organization developing several SAR applications for EO and multiplanetary missions

Written by

Vinit Bansal
Vinit Bansal

Vinit is Cofounder and CTO of PierSight. He brings over nine years of experience in prototyping and commercialization of space and defense tech.