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Meeting the Challenge of Transformational Change

James Slater

Recent developments in remote sensing are leading to rapid change posing unique challenges and opportunities to users and providers of related technologies. So what is the transformational change? To answer this lets first look back at Earth’s Satellite History to get a perspective. Take a look at this animation of metadata trails http://vimeo.com/90127911 captured from all active Earth Observation Satellites 1986-2012 and see what happens around 2007… the period 2007 to 2012 brought a 25% increase in active earth observation missions leading to a much greater availability of data about the earth than at any other time. 

 

New sensors contributing to this change include WorldView-3; expected to launch mid-August 2014 promises to be the first very high spatial resolution, multi-payload, super-spectral, commercial satellite offering revisit times of less than a day.  In recent weeks DigitalGlobe also announced that with the U.S. Department of Commerce relaxing restrictions their highest resolution imagery: 0.25m panchromatic and 1.0m multispectral will soon be available.

 

Radar Imaging or SAR continues to show incredible operational capabilities from monitoring sea ice, oil spills, land-use change, land deformation and disaster response and April this year saw the launch of a new SAR Satellite: Sentinel 1-A. Part of the European Copernicus project the really great thing here is that Sentinel 1-A promises free and open access removing a significant barrier to entry. SAR is really an accelerating area... unlike imagery which observes sunlight reflected from the surface, SAR is an active instrument which emits a pulse of millimeter wavelength light so SAR sees though cloud cover and it is available 24 hours, day and night and because SAR is active it can identify small scale features such as changes in surface height and texture. SAR’s unique capabilities of cloud penetration, night illumination, and water height detection make it a perfect fit for proactive monitoring of pre, event and post event flood monitoring. 

 

New approaches to data acquisition are also leading to new possibilities… constellations of cube satellites developed from COTS hardware re-purposed from consumer applications are set to dramatically increase the amount, timeliness and availability of data about of our world. SkySat from SkyBox is such an example driving access to up to date, relevant and timely data. 

 

Other sources of imagery are also coming to the fore. Previously the domain of military users Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Full Motion Video (FMV) are starting to deliver hyper localized and real time information from the earth’s surface.

 

Away from sensors and satellites the way information about the earth is consumed has also changed, the realization of image services facilitating live-stream analysis of data breaking the bond between user and data location and creating new possibilities for creating derived information without the overhead of data ownership.

 

The result of these ground breaking developments is a data avalanche. This data needs to manipulated, converted, integrated and analyzed to extract meaningful information. So How Does Exelis Help? We convert the 1s and 0s coming from the full range of data types spanning optical, SAR and LiDAR into meaningful, actionable information. Our tools workflow automation, interoperability and new approaches to distributed, networked processing meet the challenge of this rapid increase in data availability and with large scale projects such as Copernicus in Europe and others around the world the trend towards improved availability, quality and timeliness of data is set to continue.

 

In this short blog post I have no doubt omitted developments you consider key. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments below.

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