Hyperspectral Imaging


According to the old saying, the devil is in the details.

But for utilities, when it comes to hyperspectral imaging, it’s not the devil but the answers that are in those details.

While satellites have offered remote sensing that can see not just the physical condition of vegetation but also tree health, hyperspectral takes information return to the next level: identifying missing nutrients in soil, where pests are spreading, and where irrigation may be off, indicated by poor moisture levels.

Hyperspectral also offers the capability to measure carbon emissions and sequestration to help today’s companies ensure a net zero future.

Awais Ahmed, CEO of space technology company Pixxel joined host Scott Mackenzie in a podcast to discuss how hyperspectral imaging now allows organizations to see previously unseen challenges and take corrective actions faster.

See the top three takeaways from their talk below or listen now.

Hyperspectral imaging with Awais Ahmed

Takeaway 1: Satellite sight just keeps getting better

Satellite Earth observation, gathering information via active or passive remote sensing imagery, has brought a wealth of knowledge. Organizations can use this data to track biodiversity and land use changes and monitor and respond to natural disasters.

Multispectral imaging is achieved through passive remote sensing, which detects reflection of radiation or sunlight. It sees beyond the red, green, and blue wavelengths that the human eye can see, plus allows infrared views similar to what is seen through night vision goggles. Looking for tree elevation and health information? Multispectral at your service.

Active remote sensing via synthetic aperture radar (SAR) provides very high-resolution images independent of every kind of weather condition. It adds to what a satellite’s multispectral imagery can offer, detecting changes in habitat, levels of water and moisture, effects of natural or human disturbance, and changes in the Earth’s surface.

Now, let’s step it up to hyperspectral.

Hyperspectral, like multispectral imagery, looks even further into challenges here on Earth, uncovering info we can’t see with our eyes or via existing satellite remote sensing technology. It captures data in the entire visible and infrared range — in hundreds of wavelengths.

While multispectral can show you an active crop and its health, hyperspectral will dig deeper and identify where nutrients are lacking in the soil.

Capturing this in-depth data is where hyperspectral imagery really shines, says Awais Ahmed, CEO of Pixxel.

Takeaway 2: More data means more use cases — if you can analyze it

As a superset of existing data, the vast amount of information hyperspectral imagery can add to satellite remote sensing data creates an opportunity for even more intensive problem solving.

Use cases that need this improved satellite remote sensing imagery include detecting:

  • Gas leakages from pipelines.
  • Locations of air and water pollution emissions.
  • Pest infestation occurrences at early stages.
  • Crop diseases when symptoms are not overtly visible.

In a use case that Pixxel conducted with a large agricultural science company, Ahmed explains that hyperspectral imagery helped to answer questions about how genetically modified crops versus non-GMO crops performed:

  • Does providing lower irrigation levels to a GMO crop still produce the same yield?
  • Are the plants at the same health level as a non-GMO crop?
  • Can water be saved for use elsewhere?

He emphasized that just beaming down the hyperspectral imagery data from space is only the first step. Like all other remote sensing data, it needs analysis to make it useful.

Once the data is received from space it needs to land in a repository. Thankfully centralized cloud repositories are plentiful today via Google, Amazon, and Microsoft cloud services.

Takeaway 3: Hyperspectral imagery IDs climate action details

With COP27 climate talks calling for “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” by 2030, carbon measurement, emission reductions and sequestering or storage remain urgently top of mind.

Hyperspectral imagery contributes to the success of these goals, offering the “sight” to measure and the data collection to fuel analysis. An organization can measure:

  • Amount of carbon that it is being emitted.
  • How much carbon is sequestered or stored someplace else.
  • Which regulations carbon strategies comply with.

Hyperspectral analysis allows monitoring, data collection and evaluation at a global scale.

For more on hyperspectral imagery and the potential of satellites to power operations, maintenance, and sustainability from space, subscribe to Satellite Superheroes podcast:

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