In 2018, scientists launched a massive antenna into space with one goal; to track the animals of Earth.

Floating aboard the International Space Station (ISS), 240 miles above the planet, the antenna will receive information from tiny transmitters attached to over 800 different species. 

This data will allow researchers to track animal movement and migrations in real-time. 

Recently, after a few setbacks, the tracking system was finally switched on

The project has been coined ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space). The goal is to eventually establish a network of satellites that will be able to track hundreds of thousands of animals. 

ICARUS won’t just map the locations of its legions of animals.

The transmitters also record information on the creature’s physiology and surrounding environment. 

“In the future, we’ll use every animal that flies as a meteorological drone,” Martin Wikelski, the director of migration research at the Max Planck Institute told Nature. “To measure the temperature in the middle of the Pacific at 20-meters altitude is impossible, but birds do it all the time.”

Every animal sporting a transponder will essentially be a beacon of meteorological data, allowing us to effectively map the weather with a whole new level of accuracy and understanding. 

In the next 10 years, researchers believe that the tracker technology will advance so much that they’ll even be able to attach transponders to insects like locusts. 

To read more about ICARUS and find out how you can track animals yourself, check out Smithsonian Magazine’s article here