It refers to the collection, processing, analysis, monitoring, and secure distribution of selected intelligence data of various types and formats obtained by private-sector companies, organizations, individuals, or other entities. Although Commercial ISR products and services are ostensibly intended for non-governmental and non-military users, many of those commercial users are often hired as contractors or sub-contractors not only to private sector multi-national corporations, but also to defense departments, intelligence agencies, and civil law enforcement.
The collecting and sharing of intelligence about adversaries has existed as a private trade since Ancient Greece, or earlier, but exponential technology advances in recent years have led to a profusion of significantly high quality, affordable electronic devices and related equipment that have escalated the growth of private sector intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance worldwide. Government and military agencies still have a technological edge in many areas, but Commercial ISR gear is highly competitive. From sensors, cameras, and processors, to radios, satellite systems, communication hardware, global navigation and mapping, microwave receivers, radio gear, secure data transmission, dynamic PED (processing, exploitation, and dissemination) systems, field-programmable transceivers, advanced visual systems, and more.
Advances in Commercial ISR technologies have also raised the bar for private sector ISR skills required to install, integrate, operate, and support those technologies. This requires not only high-end engineering staff, but also Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT), Activity-Based Intelligence (ABINT), and other relevant experience to identify appropriate targets, guide implementation, then collect, process, analyze, interpret, and make recommendations resulting from the actionable intelligence the team produces. As a result, the Commercial ISR industry tends to employ a significant number of former military and intelligence personnel, as well as recruit from top engineering schools.
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