In honour of Earth Day 2022, we're highlighting the top four coolest ways satellite imagery is being used for environmental monitoring. Tasking satellite imagery goes beyond the image itself; it also collects and measures data to monitor change. Through our solution EarthCache, Earth observation data is easily accessible for organizations wanting to track a geographical area. In these use cases, EO data allows us to monitor the planet consistently over time, looking for changes or new activity. In addition, getting timely imagery and numeric data can demonstrate changes from one data set to the next, allowing GIS specialists to focus on finding solutions instead of figuring out the problem.
The theme of Earth Day 2022 is "Invest In Our Planet." Satellite imagery is an excellent investment tool.
Through remote sensing, change is highly detectable. Therefore, the act of monitoring can help mitigate risk and encourage preservation over long-term monitoring projects.
Let's count down to the top four coolest ways satellite imagery is being used that connect to earth day.
NUMBER ONE MAY SURPRISE YOU!
#4. Oil Spills & Gas Leaks
Oil & gas companies undoubtedly have an impact on the environment. As we invest in energy as a society, investing in monitoring practices will help isolate spills or leaks to minimize their impact. Environmental protective agencies have a considerable interest in Earth observation data for its ability to provide timely imagery remotely. The goal of using remote sensing technology is to quickly intervene in an affected area to avoid further damage to the ecosystem.
As demonstrated in the photo below, an oil spill in water will travel if not cleaned promptly. Many oil & gas plants are centered in remote areas near the coast, so polluting both the surrounding land and water is common. To mitigate risk, organizations will task images weekly and have GIS specialists monitor the area of interest (AOI) to detect any changes, creating preventative measures. If a line leaks and needs repair, this can signal to monitor surrounding pipelines and fix any corroded or outdated materials.
#3. Precision Agriculture
The ultimate goal of precision agriculture is to use technology to gain better insights and make intelligent decisions for the health of operating fields. Operational efficiency within agriculture is crucial to a successful crop yield. Farmers who have extensive operations will seek guidance from trusted agronomists to seek a balance between production and safety. Agronomists will collect data to analyze the property and scope of the fields to identify potential issues. Issues could include irrigation, disease, chemical levels in soil, (etc.) all factors that can make financial and environmental impacts.
Traditionally, agronomists would manually examine the fields, test the soils, and observe the environment to scope any issues. The problem with this style of operation is that it is time-consuming, costly, and takes the agronomists away from completing a thorough analysis. Using Earth observation data cuts this time significantly and contributes to precision agriculture. Remote sensing can detect changes in the AOI and capture multiple data points at once, giving the agronomists a targeted area to review in the event of detected change. Satellite imagery can highlight a hotspot "heat map" to focus the specialist's energy on an affected area.
Monitoring the fields' environment in this capacity can also avoid things like overapplication of fertilizer, for example, as the entire area is monitored weekly or monthly and can predict growth in a way the naked eye can't.
#2. The Beetles
Since a yellow submarine would render useless in this scenario, remote sensors from space are a great alternative. What do beetles have to do with Earth Day? Deforestation due to beetle infestation is a significant phenomenon across the globe.
In North America, a specific species of bark beetles known as Mountain Pine Beetles can take down hundreds of trees in a short time. The beetles eat the bark and other nutrients from the trees, exhausting the tree's defences within 2-3 days, resulting in death. The beetles will repeat this process throughout the season, damaging the woodlands. The more trees this species feeds off, the more the beetles will return in future seasons. Satellite imagery is an excellent tool for assessing damage and taking measures to preserve the ecosystem.
Remote sensing data enables change detection and object clarification, allowing environmentalists to identify the beetles in a given area. The ability to detect this remotely saves specialists the time and effort of finding the species manually (sometimes it's too late to isolate the infected tree). Once the bark beetles are identified, this promotes action to lessen the impact of a mass infestation. If geographical areas that are vulnerable to the beetle species are consistently monitored in the spring, this, in turn, will support preservation and decrease the negative impact on the forest's ecosystem. The data from regular monitorings can also contribute to AI solutions to make it seamless for future detection.
#1. Coastal Erosion & Infrastructure
Coastal erosion has several impacts, but the effect on building infrastructure is costly. If you live by open water, you know that environmental changes can impact your life. Tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and erosion are all common side effects of living by the coast.
"WHAT IF THERE WAS A WAY TO PREDICT A MAJOR LIFE EVENT IN THESE VULNERABLE AREAS?"
As you can probably guess the answer, you can by analyzing RGB and NIR data.
A use case we came across at SkyWatch was the study of a massive flood that resulted in 16 million dollars worth of damage, affecting up to 415 miles of land off the coast. After the unfortunate event, GIS professionals became aware of the 130-foot eroding coastline and predicted that further damage would continue without preventative measures.
Monitoring coastal erosion through satellite imagery gave specialists a starting point to recommend areas that needed attention. Properly planning to protect the existing infrastructure saves the government, insurance providers and individual homeowners the pain and cost of repairs.
The continuation of this study will help the region prepare for natural disasters to keep safety and their impact on the environment top of mind. Gathering this data provides preparation options for people, but it also provides data to preserve the ecosystem and prevent additional infrastructures from being built in the eroding area.
There are tons of benefits that come out of this data.
TRULY, THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.
If we still want to be able to capture beautiful images of our planet, we need to invest in data and, in turn, invest in our planet. Earth observation data can ensure that we're taking the appropriate measures to care for and preserve our planet. The top four coolest ways satellite imagery is being used are a great reflection of the 2022 Earth Day theme. These use cases are four of many, and they all vary in industries.
Many organizations that care about the planet will use space technology to help target areas that need help.
If you're a company that wants to make a difference, chat with us.