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Above and Beyond: How satellite imagery can benefit core industries

25th Feb, 20

The exponential growth of geospatial technologies in the last couple of decades has made available new instruments and capabilities for gathering and managing spatial data. The evolution of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the Global Positioning System (GPS), and remote sensing satellite imagery technologies have enabled the collection and analysis of field data like never before.

From low-resolution grainy images to high-resolution multispectral images of our surroundings, remote sensing satellite imagery has become more functional and useful than ever. There’s enough evidence from sectors as diverse as agriculture and education that satellites have indeed changed the modern world.

According to a ScienceDirect article, satellite remote sensing instruments provide a unique perspective on the state and dynamic changes occurring in land, coastal, and oceanic ecosystems. This further helps in detailed change detection in land surface, atmospheric and climatic drivers that often indicate ecological health, and sustainability.

Understanding popular GIS and satellite technologies 

GIS Mapping
Geographic Information Systems enable the creation, storage and analysis of geographic data. This tool is then used to visualize and examine spatial patterns and trends on a map. A GIS can manage different data types occupying the same geographic space. For instance, a GIS can help not only in reporting power outages but also capture data on hazard vegetation that has caused the outage in a geographic location.

Remote Sensing
Remote sensing is the process of obtaining information about objects, areas or phenomenon from a distance, typically from aircraft or satellites.  It includes the use of satellite or aircraft-based sensor technologies to detect and classify objects on the Earth's surface and in the atmosphere and oceans. The age of remote sensing can be said to have started in 1860 with James Wallace Black's photograph of Boston from a balloon.

Satellites have been used for capturing geospatial information for over 60 years now. Satellite data is used for an ever-expanding collection of uses, such as weather forecasting, mapping, environmental research, military intelligence and more.

Aerial photography is one of the earliest forms of remote sensing and is still one of the most widely used and cost-effective methods of remote sensing. The advent of drones, unmanned aerial vehicles have made aerial photography easier for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

- LiDAR is a technique for capturing geospatial data that uses laser scanning to create three-dimensional point clouds of geographic features. LiDAR sensors can be mounted on UAVs, airplanes or satellites.

Multispectral Imagery
Multispectral imagery was originally developed for military target identification and reconnaissance but has since branched out to have many practical applications. This method captures images with different bands of light, from near infrared to ultraviolet, in order to capture minute details that are oblivious to the human eye. For vegetation management, it can be used to accurately capture critical details such as vegetation stress, plant species, height and basal area.

Synthetic Aperture Radar
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) uses the motion of the radar antenna over a target region to provide a near accurate 3D representation of the landscape. Successive radio wave pulses are transmitted to the target in order to illuminate it. The SAR device then develops the imagery by calculating the time taken for radar pulses to return to the antenna and equating it with the distance that the SAR device has moved within that time.

The data and imagery acquired from satellites require processing before they are usable by most researchers and applied science users. Once data are processed, they can be used in a variety of applications, from agriculture to water resources to asset management.

Why core industries should tap into geospatial tech?

Considering the exponential progress that satellite and geospatial imagery has made, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It has the potential to drastically change several industries and businesses that have not yet tapped into the power of satellite.

Core industries are yet to effectively tap into the power of satellite imagery. Many industries have been slow to pick up on the cutting-edge developments that have been happening in the satellite imagery space. They are not aware of how these innovations can be combined with and leveraged by their existing IT systems. One of the major industries where there is a high potential for satellite technology is power utilities.

Applying satellite imagery in the power utility sector 

Power utilities have hundreds of geographically distributed assets that cover several thousand miles. This vast network of powerlines has an equally large number of human resources that are working together to ensure that everything functions smoothly. The Operations and Maintenance (O&M) budgets at these companies is a huge cost, and satellite technology can prove to be an effective means to cut down that cost while boosting efficiency.

One of the most important processes within O&M is vegetation management, and it is here that satellite imagery can play a definitive role. Many of the distributed assets pass through mid to heavily forested areas. This means that there is a constant threat of a disruption of transmission and distribution (T&D) lines by uncontrolled vegetation growth. Such a disruption can have some severe consequences, such as power outages and in some cases wildfires too. California has been at the receiving end with incessant power outages and wildfires affecting human lives for the past decade now. 

Currently, the only solution is a network of individuals working within physical limits without a bigger picture. However, satellite imagery has the power to change that.

AiDash has incorporated these different forms of satellite imagery to ensure that our solutions are powered by highly accurate satellite and geospatial mapping. The AiDash platform captures this high-resolution geospatial imagery and combines it with ground data to effectively plan trim cycle and hazard tree management.

The app detects clearance, dimensions, species and geo-location of vegetation growing alongside the Right of Way (RoW) of T&D networks. The system AI then calculates the impact of not clearing the vegetation hazard and probability score of potential disruption, thus allowing ground operators to work in a prioritized and intelligent manner.

With AI-powered by satellite data, utility companies can have a single cockpit to watch over their entire network of distributed assets, prioritize tasks like trim cycle and hazard tree management. They will have complete control and total visibility to prevent damages and boost efficiency.

Sources: 
http://michaelminn.net/tutorials/gis-intro/
https://www.joe.org/joe/2005june/a6.php