The view from space – how satellites are aiding life on earth
There’s no shortage of hype around the billionaire space race, with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezo’s hot on each other heels to develop commercially viable flights to space. Yet, there is less discussion around the innovation in the space sector as a whole, and how the like of satellites are improving life down here on earth.
Currently orbiting in space right now is around 6,500 satellites each streaming a feed of images and data back down to earth. This data is helping to provide invaluable insight to improve various conditions on planet earth, from air quality to disaster response.
Satellite earth observation is a form of remote sensing focused on obtaining information about the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. The acquired data is usually in the form of digital imagery and provides global coverage. Imagery can be generated in either an active or passive format.
Passive Imagery – In this form sensors are designed to detect electromagnetic emissions from constituents of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere.
Active Imagery – This system involves instruments that are composed of a transmitter that sends out a specific electromagnetic signal and then a sensor receiving the interaction of the signal with the Earth’s surface.
Due to the advanced technology that is now available, the latest satellites can develop exceptionally high-quality imagery that can show crop yield on a pixel by pixel basis, enabling farmers to consistently improve crop yield and detect issues earlier on.
Satellite monitoring opens the door to crop health assessment, yield estimations, risk management and resource planning. This enables farmers to improve management techniques, and ensure every acre is optimised. Which with a fast-growing population and a food source that at current rates won’t be able to feed the population in the next couple of decades, every improvement is critical.
Often the earliest and clearest indications of climate change can be observed in very remote regions of the world. Earth-observation satellites enable global monitoring of deforestation, pollution levels in bodies of water, the status of ice caps and desertification, and enable early and immediate action to prevent these events.
To determine the above, earth observation satellites monitor the following aspects:
- Land, forests and sea and their coverage rates and any possible hazard
- Air quality, temperature and humidity (including greenhouse gas concentration)
- Weather patterns
- Snow and ice coverage
- Vegetation health
All of this critical information provides scientists with a better understanding of the Earth’s evolution and identify ways to mitigate climate change.
Satellite technology identifies how the Earth’s surface changes over time. Consistently capturing imagery, meaning movements in the ground surface can be identified, which could highlight the risk for subsidence, landslides, logging activities and coastal erosion.
Any one of the risks above could cause harm and major destruction to housing and infrastructure. Therefore, early detection of movements or changes, could enable mitigation action to be taken or in a worst-case scenario evacuation.
Under the sea
Satellites can track and help stop illegal fishing by pairing vessel Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders, which are legally required to be on with satellite imagery will enable identification of vessels operating without AIS signals and more likely to be engaged in illegal activity.
Satellites are already providing incredible insight, and they are yet to reach their full potential. What’s next, well the sky is truly the limit.
If you are using satellite imagery to deliver amazing, potentially life-saving solutions, then we want to hear from you! Contact us.