May 10, 2023 I Paul Seaburn

Sky360 Open Source Sky Scanning Project is Recruiting Citizens to Search for UAPs

Are you disappointed with the unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) reports given to the public so far by the Pentagon’s much ballyhooed new All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO)? Do you trust the information being given out by those associated with the celebrity-sponsored companies which pledged to finance deeper searches for UAPs and hold the government’s feet to the fire to obtain more disclosure but seems to instead be focused on money-making opportunities and publicity? Would you like to join in hunt for answers your questions about UAPs and aliens but can’t make the time commitment required by citizen UFO organizations? Then you’ve come to the right place. A group calling itself Sky360 is looking for citizens to become part of their effort to cover the planet with affordable UAP monitoring stations aimed at the skies 24/7 to collect data which will be analyzed for anomalies that may be UAPs and could one day be connected to AI and give us the real-time updates and analysis that human-based projects seem to be unable to do.

How hard can it be?

“There's distrust [about how governments managed UAP sightings] and that's why the idea of a citizen science formation, to take this into our own hands, and to create our own information about it [is necessary]. Most data is from military-use sensors, like the National Reconnaissance Office. They have a lot of data, but they would never make it public nor would they give it to universities for analysis.”

In an interview with Motherboard, Sky360 chairman and co-founder Richard G. Hopf explains why he saw a need for an organization to hunt UAPs that was not beholden to any government or rich benefactors. In 2021, he set up Sky360, an “international NGO of engineers, scientists and software developers working together to establish a global network of 150k sky monitoring stations for 24/7 sky situation awareness aka the UAP tracking network.” (from Hopf’s LinkedIn page.) Hopf lives in Austria and that is where Sky360 is based, but he obviously envisions it as a worldwide project. On the Sky360 website, the technology behind the project is laid out. The Sky360 monitoring system needs to use open source hardware, software and data generation based on based on affordable, networked stations. The benchmark for success in developing it is one that is easily recognized.

“Since analyzing software and AI require good data quality, we need to track fast moving events in Earths atmosphere and low orbit with a minimum video resolution of 3-4 px for the event. Our benchmark is to detect, track and identify the ISS, moving at a distance of 422km (250 mi), at a speed of 7.66km/s (28k km/h, 17.4k mph) and is visible for around 2 minutes (depending on the location).”

That goal can be accomplished with off-the-shelf hardware, starting with an AllSkyCam (fisheye) and a PTF (pan-tilt-focus) camera. Other hardware components (all off-the-shelf) include passive radar, temperature gauges and geophones. When the need for more is identified, Sky360 developers will make sure the equipment can be purchased by anyone and added to an existing system by citizen do-it-yourselfers. Once the parts are integrated, the Sky360 system will search the sky above it 24/7 and register all moving objects, from unidentified to planes, birds, comets, etc. An initial analysis of each event determines whether the PTF or other sensors are activated. If so, the PTF camera pans, tilts and focuses on the event, tracking it, and analyzing it at 30x magnification. A photo of the simple yet elegant hardware station can be seen here. That also sounds like pretty sophisticated software.

“The core part is the tracker with image processing, a neural network (NN) with a machine learning (ML) based identifier and prioritizer, as well as a messaging system for all connected sensors. For the connected sensors we first focus on the PTF for guiding, vector-ahead tracking and production of high resolution video data. Currently all stations data is collected and stored locally. However, we plan to develop a software/AI for a cloud service that can aggregate event data from all active stations. The analysis will include additional external data such as air traffic, weather, etc.”

Are you excited enough to join Sky360? The organization is looking for more hardware and software developers, and additional information on how to get involved can be obtained on the website. The biggest need is obviously people to take ownership of one or more Sky360 monitoring stations. The group estimates that one station can cover a radius of 30 km (18.6 mi), so 150,000 stations would provide good coverage of the entire sky. All that is required is to purchase the parts and assemble your system.

“We recognize that the cost of our Sky360 citizen science project must be as low as possible. Therefore, we recommend a modular system. Start with basic equipment and add more sensors later. Currently the range is US$ 1,500 - 5,000.”

The website provides a guide for purchasing parts from local electronics shops, online retailers and from the Sky360 store. Some can be 3D printed for those with that capability. It is obviously more complicated than putting together DIY furniture … it’s more like a do-it-yourself computer. If you think you can handle that, or already have that type of experience, it looks like you can make a Sky360. The organization also recommends teaming up with others – as a way to share costs and expertise. Developer Nikola Galiot told Motherboard that the network of systems uses machine learning and will share improvements across the network.

UAPs or meteors?

In June of this year, Sky360 plans to release the key component ‘SimpleTracker’ which receives images frame by frame from the cameras and auto-adjusts parameters to get the best picture possible. The development is being done by a team of 30 volunteers, so that schedule may not be cast in concrete. However, that’s the point – this is a citizen-based, open source project to find, track and identify UAPs without government interference or the need to make a profit. That means the data collected will be available to everybody – true disclosure without delay. Isn’t that what everyone interested in UAPs wants?

For more info on becoming a citizen UAP watcher, check out the Sky360 website.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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