Written by Skygate Technologies
The SPACETIDE 2021 Winter Conference (https://spacetide.jp/en/news/2805/), one of the Asia's largest space business conferences, has kicked-off its 4-day schedule in Nihonbashi (Central Tokyo) on December 11th, and the Day 2 of the conference focused on rapidly expanding remote sensing and earth observation applications.
The notable characteristic of the Day 2 was that most discussions were led and driven by actual users of remote sensing and earth observation intelligence unlike typical conferences where discussions are often paneled by experts and analysts from service/product "providers". Here are some of the recurring and arising themes from the Day 2.
Remote sensing and earth observation users need more frequent, not higher resolution, earth data to deliver real-life, practical applications
Users are creating the best satellite and on-the-ground intelligence hybrids to extract the most accurate, valuable intelligence in a most cost effective way
Any business or project related to space or satellite used to take decades and millions; now it only takes months and thousands.
Yes, you read that correctly. Quite literally, every single user panelist pointed out the lack of frequent earth data as the single largest bottleneck of creating values out of remote sensing and earth observation information. For example, in a use case of satellite imagery in landscape surveying for construction and real estate purposes, the user requires daily imagery at minimum, and three-times-a-day imagery if possible in order for a real-life application with a justification of moving away from conventional manual on-the-ground surveying
In a stricter case, rainfall monitoring and early disaster warming service provider requires hourly imagery at minimum, and every-ten-minute imagery if possible to deliver early disaster warning service that is consistent with government guidelines. The current highest observation frequency in Asia is still at a single observation every two days, and doubling the frequency would require a double number of observing satellites. Though a few users mentioned the need for higher resolution imagery, most users agreed that even the issue with imagery quality can often be overcame by or worked-around with quantity (=frequency) of the data.
The goals of remote sensing and earth observation users seem to have already shifted from replacing conventional on-the-ground monitoring/intelligence with remote sensing and earth observation to creating the best satellite and on-the-ground intelligence hybrids to extract the most accurate, valuable intelligence in a most cost effective way.
As mentioned earlier, not many users expressed the need for higher quality (resolution) satellite imagery because most users have already distinguished the primary role and purpose of satellite and on-the-ground intelligence: users are utilizing satellite imagery for wide area data gathering to get bird-eye, broad perspectives to identify and/or recognize the areas of interests, and are supplementing and validating high-level observations with more precise and accurate on-the-ground monitoring and measures, excluding some military and broader-sensitive situations.
For example, in a case of volcanic activity monitoring, the user is working on utilizing satellite imagery to monitor 111 active volcanos across Japan (and 1500+ volcanos in Malaysia in the future) to catch early signs of eruption, and combines that data with on-the-ground GPS and seismometer intelligence to come up more precise and accurate forecasting.
Any business or project related to space or satellite used to take decades and millions; now it only takes months and thousands. For example, the idea of utilizing satellite imagery to monitor drifting icebergs in the Artic for safe vessel navigation went from ideation to in-service, with 70-80% accuracy, within 3 months with less than 10 engineers. In a more extreme case, the idea of using satellite imagery to identify vacant properties for potential parking space (where parking spaces are very valuable) fully materialized as a service within 1 month with a handful of engineers. This unprecedented level of agility in the space industry will open up a lot of possibilities: this is the golden age of space utilizations.
Photo 1: SPACTIDE, client.eventhub.jp/e/Uq-izFMtG/home