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Space Patrol: Why protesting if you can do the testing?

Why protesting if you can do the testing? A system for public monitoring from space to establish a dialogue with the authorities at the highest – orbital – level is being created in Russia. Together with its partners ScanEx RDC has plans to develop and open access to system called “Space Patrol” in 2013.

This system is the socially significant initiative and is aimed at the shaping of a new quality culture of interaction between the authorities and the society; a comprehensive socio-economic development of Russia and improvement of activities in the environment and nature protection, education, development and introduction of technology innovations, corruption reduction within governmental and commercial structures and citizens’ self-consciousness level increase. Regular operational updating of the coverage of the Russian territory with space images is planned within the frames of the project implementation and data posting on an open web portal. Based on space images, as well as additional geospatial data available at the portal (cadastre division, borders of protected natural areas, protected forests, water protection areas, forestry subdivisions and forest rides), the users will get the possibility to conduct complete monitoring of current activities. In case of detecting violations the information accompanied with visual evidence and illustrations, indicating the coordinates, will be sent to the respect regulatory and controlling agencies.

Based on this data each user can become “on duty” in the country and not just to watch what is happening on his land, but to report to relevant agencies “if someone somewhere is doing something wrong”. This is exactly the purpose of this project, believes ScanEx’s Director Olga Gershenzon

“Make our lives transparent and teach each student, senior citizen, any person who does care where and how we live, to control the government authorities  - in the best sense of this word. So that we could use space data processing and application methods to identify problem areas or the government’s actions. But we want to make this process not against the government, but in the dialogue with it instead”

The quality of roads repairs, construction terms, land use, ecology, nature conservation, mining, logging, fishing regulations abidance, routes of movement – they see everything from above, including the abuse of those who feel themselves to be on top as well. In legal terms, however, space images do not solve all the problems yet. They have no legal effect, but they may raise the moral courage to convict can raise, warns Olga Gershenzon:
“We have a precedent of using space-based information in the court. Both the Investigation Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office apply to us for assistance. Of course, there are officials who do not want to take these data into consideration, referring to the fact that it is legally illegitimate. But if we attract attention of both the civil society, and the government in the framework of this all-Russian project, and perhaps of a global one, because it is a matter of concerns in many countries, not only in Russia, then it will be easier for us to change the regulatory framework as well”.

ScanEx decided nowadays to bring the satellite capabilities from space down to earth. The company specializes in forwarding space data for more than two decades. The Center has been creating, maintaining and developing the orbital data reception stations operating with different satellite systems. It does business with the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Federal Forestry Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Natural Resources and with federation constituents (sub-regions). It’s the ScanEx’s project “Kosmosnimki – Fires” that turned into the online TV-series about the fire spots in Russia.

But the dream of Olga Gershenzon, as she claims, lies in the fact that even a schoolboy could open the site, choose his/her own “piece” of Russia and control it:
“Unlike Google or Yandex, where images obtained two years ago are updated once a year for the megacities only, we would like, ideally, to update biweekly the images on the most active emergency spots or once a day, when a special event, for example, fishing and nets installing is ongoing at the places of salmon entering a rivers for spawning. There were many such projects. For example, they rescued baby-seals on ice when they are just born and the icebreakers ride over them. We want it to be not only the prerogative of the federal or regional authorities, but also would like to involve civil society”

“Space Patrol” is no special troops. It is rather  the people’s guard. Besides, it is a good graphic orbital illustration of the fact the state can be governed from space can not only by a cook, but even by a child. The main thing is for the state to be ready for this.

Illustration: UniScan™ – ground station for X-band data reception from polar-orbiting remote sensing satellites developed at the “R&D Center ScanEx”