[Translate to Englisch:] Movebank Data Worldmap.
Copyright: MaxCine


Tracking animals from space

The ICARUS project makes it possible to observe global animal migrations from space. The ICARUS antenna in space receives data from miniature transmitters attached to wild animals. The movement data of all observed animal species are collected in the database Movebank.

It is a biological treasure trove. If we understand animal behaviour, we can learn a lot more about our planet. Investigating the collective senses of living organisms can help us to understand our world.
Martin Wikelski

We can trace the migration routes of animals across continents, detect hidden interactions between animal species and, ultimately, develop a better understanding of the ecological context of animal migrations. All this makes it possible for us to protect animals better and at the same time rediscover our planet "through the eyes of animals".

[Translate to Englisch:] Copyright: MaxCine

Project history: Travel to space and current status

The ICARUS system was initially installed on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018. After a construction and test phase, scientific operations began in 2020. Since then, research groups around the world have been using ICARUS for their projects.

As a result of the war in Ukraine, the bilateral cooperation between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Russian space agency Roskosmos ended in March 2022. Since then, the antenna of the International Space Station (ISS) can no longer be used.

Currently, a system of small satellites that operate independently of the ISS is being set up. The launch for the first satellite is planned for late autumn 2024. So the project can continue in the meantime, an alternative terrestrial system for animal observation will be further expanded. This system is already being used very successfully in various research projects, particularly in Europe.

In the future, a combination of data transmission via small satellites in low orbit and "IoT-Ground to Space" will be used for global animal observation in ICARUS. The aim is to establish an "internet of animals" in which we network the movement data of the animals we observe and thus rediscover our planet from the animals' perspectives.

About the project

ICARUS is a joint project of the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour and the University of Konstanz in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Until the war started at the beginning of 2022, the Russian space agency Roskosmos was also involved.

The scientific director of the ICARUS project is Professor Martin Wikelski, director at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and honorary professor at the University of Konstanz. The ICARUS project is coordinated by Uschi Müller.