Visible on the palm of your hand
We had to wait for real pictures of Earth until the 20th century. It is believed that the most widespread photo in history was the first photograph of the Earth made by Apollo 17 from the Moon, December 12, 1972. This photo, or rather the possibility of taking photographs from a distance allowing for being in the frame of the entire planet was a milestone in the development of Earth monitoring. Earlier photographs, made for example with ballistic missiles, depicted the planet in only fragments. Currently, thanks to satellites placed in the Earth’s orbit, monitoring of our planet creates previously unattainable possibilities, which are more rapidly exploiting, creating innovative services and products based on data from space. The Americans have the greatest traditions in using satellite data.
The disappearing Colorado River
One of the longest rivers of the United States, Colorado, has been so heavily exploited by Americans in recent years, that only its remnants flow into Mexico, and nothing else is reaching the place where it has recently been released. However, the water level in the Lake Mead artificial reservoir, which Colorado falls into, has decreased dramatically. Climate warming also did not help the situation.
US scientists have been successfully using data from satellites to map water resources across the country for several years. As the analyst MacKenzie Friedrichs, who is involved in this project, says – Satellite images processed in the cloud enabled the creation of a national database specifying the degree of hydration throughout the country. Historical and current satellite images as well as meteorological data are used for analyzes, which additionally allows to estimate water consumption in the studied area. Thanks to our research, also taking into account also environmental factors such as water uptake through vegetation and evaporation process, we can obtain information about water consumption in a given time. Estimations obtained after analyzing the available data are used for domestic and regional entities that decide on water management. Thanks to the analysis of satellite images, the management of water resources has become more rational.
This is happening in America, but also in Europe, thanks to the Copernicus Earth observation program, data from satellites are being used more and more widely. The European Space Agency, with the ambition of breaching the Americans to develop services based on space data, has sent a series of Sentinel satellites into orbit over the past five years. They deliver millions of gigabytes of data every day. These include optical images, near infrared, near ultraviolet, and radar observations that go to the repository. Importantly, the Sentinel images are more accurate than those from NASA satellites and cover the entire planet.
Fishing under full control
And how can you earn money on satellite data? For example, you can sell in a friendly, transparent form reports on places where fish catches will be the most fruitful. This patent has been used by Ocean Imaging for several decades, offering, among others, Sea View Fishing tool. The application uses current satellite data and is popular among owners of commercial fishing vessels.
- We sailed against the wind and against the current for quite a long time, until we looked at the current Sea View Fishing map. We changed the course, we got to the north-west of the current and I think that thanks to this, we have shortened the travel time by up to 50% – praising the Jan-Lin application, one of its users. The program informs about, for example, sea height, currents, ground temperature, plankton or salinity. All this information, plus key data on potential catches, accelerate the analysis and identification of the most efficient fishing sites. In addition, they optimize fuel consumption. So in this model, not only the application producer but also its users earn.
Thanks to the development of the Copernicus program, similar tools also appear in Europe. And because the European Union is the world’s fifth largest producer in the field of fisheries, and in some coastal regions, up to half of jobs are associated with fishing, there is a lot to wrest. “Sea” applications can be designed not only for business, but also for those who like recreation on the water. Sailing enthusiasts in the vicinity of the Malta Channel can, for example, use the Kaptan application, which shows current information about the situation at sea and weather forecast, including dynamic changes in the atmosphere and the variability of sea currents. Local fishermen, divers, surfers and tourists can also use the free application.
‘The market for satellite-based services will continue to grow. In addition to economic reasons, encouraging the use of new tools to optimize costs or increase efficiency, issues of sustainable resource use and climate protection are becoming increasingly important. In addition, the quality of satellite images is getting higher, which increases their research value and extends the possibilities of their use’ – says Przemysław Mujta, Technical Sales Manager from CloudFerro, a Polish operator of the CREODIAS platform, which provides access to satellite images from the European Space Agency.
Satellite monitoring of the seas and oceans are also used by organizations dealing with the problem of illegal fishing and smuggling, such as Global Fishing Watch, whose financing partner is the foundation of a well-known actor, the Leonardo DiCarpio Foundation. This organization provides an up-to-date, public map that allows tracking of fishing activities around the world. The platform helps in scientific research, improves the way fisheries are managed and promotes environmental protection.
Current report after a fire
The information provided by Copernicus is successfully used, among others companies and institutions in Italy. Summer 2017 was another year that brought a wave of fires in southern Europe. Local national parks and protected areas were particularly affected. After the fires, local authorities faced a huge challenge – they had to examine and report in a fairly short time in what condition the areas covered by fire were in place. In the case of the Italian National Park Alta Murgia, a thorough examination of significant areas just after the fire was not only difficult, but also fraught with considerable risk. Fortunately, a local satellite services company that has developed the Rheticus Wildfires tool came to help. This application, on a current basis, after each shot of the indicated area by the Sentinel-2 satellite, analyzes the available data and generates preliminary reports. Thanks to this, local authorities had access to information on damage on an ongoing basis, they could easily assess and qualify the area, monitor the vegetation vegetation and even detect potentially illegal activities.
- Rheticus Wildfires has helped us obtain practical information about the areas covered by fire and manage the situation, and take appropriate action related to the fire on a regular basis – says Chiara Mattia from the Alta Murgia National Park. – In the application you can view current maps and preliminary reports, and its greatest advantage is not only the timeliness of information, but above all the accuracy of data and the low cost of obtaining them.
How to plan a city?
A few years ago, the Czech Prague authorities had very good, detailed information about the city, but they had problems with access to information about the wider metropolitan area. That is why they decided to use the Urban Atlas system, which collects data on land cover and use for nearly 700 of the largest European agglomerations. In the study of Prague, historical aerial photographs of the city from 1989 and 1999 were used, which were compared with satellite photos. Analysis of the city’s development over time has shown trends in the development of the agglomeration and helped to create a strategy for the development of the city.
The study showed, among other things, that the most dynamic expansion concerned, contrary to appearances, not the center, but the outer ring of Prague and its suburban municipalities. The analysis additionally helped to understand the rulers a number of issues related to the functioning of the city, such as traffic, the demand for public services, housing development or real estate price fluctuations. And also to solve basic problems, such as the biggest urban problems associated with public transport. Urban Atlas, based on satellite data, has become the basis of an urban development plan for the city and the region. Now there are even more applications for this system – for several months, Urban Atlas also collects data on the height of buildings in agglomerations for selected cities.
The bright future of photos from satellites
According to a report by the American company P & S Research Market, in 2023 the global market for commercial services based on satellite imaging is expected to reach a value of over 5.2 billion dollars. These services can be used mainly in natural resources management, border monitoring, mapping of construction projects and environmental monitoring. Data from satellites will also be used by enterprises, governments, defense, civil engineering, forestry and agriculture, insurance companies and the energy industry.
Two large space programs – Copernicus and Galileo – are currently underway in Europe. Thanks to both projects, European companies have access to data on which entrepreneurs can build their business. According to EU data, already about 10 percent. Companies that are newly established in the EU use the information made available under these programs free of charge – stresses Przemysław Mujta from CloudFerro, who in the first year of cooperation with the European Space Agency gathered on the CREODIAS platform over 10 PB of data from satellites. If this European interest we try on Poland, in which over 300,000 people are created annually companies, you can see how big it can be for Polish companies and startups.
Two large space programs – Copernicus and Galileo – are currently underway in Europe. Thanks to both projects, European companies have access to data on which entrepreneurs can build their business. According to EU data, already about 10% of newly emerging companies in the EU use the information available under these programs free of charge. In the first year of cooperation with the European Space Agency, CloudFerro collected more than 10 PB of satellite data on the CREODIAS platform.