Australia: EMERGENCY services workers will be given access to satellite imagery within minutes for the first time this bushfire season.
Announced today at the International Astronomical Congress in Adelaide, CSIRO has bought a lease for 10 per cent of the time for one of the world’s most sophisticated high-performance satellites, due for launch later this year.
Until now Australians, including emergency services, were forced to negotiate with foreign companies to get images of disasters, a process which could take up to 12 hours, but will now have direct control when they need help.
Speaking at the congress in Adelaide, CSIRO’s foremost expert on satellite applications Dr Alex Held, said Australia’s $10.45m investment would cut this time to around 60 minutes.
“Currently to get access to a satellite can take six or even 12 hours, and we can’t just point it at the right area and keep watching,’’ he said.
“With the new satellite we can download the data directly, and currently the other country has to download the data before it can be passed on to us.
“We will be able to program it to collected data anywhere we want including over Australia.’’
As well as direct control for the first time, Australian scientists will also have access to images which are much more useful than standard photography.
The NovaSAR satellite, development by UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, and with a payload supplied by Airbus UK, works using microwave radar images which can “see” day and night and through cloud and smoke.
Dr Held said this would allow firefighters to see exactly what fuel loads they were facing in the path of bushfires, even through smoke, or where floodwaters had reached, even if the area was covered by cloud.
Other practical applications for the NovaSAR satellite are:
IDENTIFYING pollution and oil spills.
AGRICULTURE mapping, crop monitoring and soil moisture.
DETECTION of illegal deforestation.
MONITORING shipping routes and illegal activity.
Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos, said the agreement would also significantly advance Australian science.
“Australia is one of the largest users of Earth Observation from Space data worldwide, with satellite data underpinning more than 100 state and federal resource mapping and environmental monitoring programs across Australia,” Minister Sinodinos said.
CSIRO Director of Digital, National Facilities and Collections said the deal represented a significant investment in Australia’s space capability.
“The aim is to manage the NovaSAR satellite as a natural extension of the significant role CSIRO already plays in managing a range of national facilities, on behalf of the Australian community of scientists and for the benefit of the nation,” Dr Williams said.
“Because we’ll be able to direct the satellite’s activity, it provides significant opportunities to support a wide range of existing research, further develop Australia’s earth observation data analytics expertise, and create new opportunities in the field of remote sensing.
“These new opportunities hold potential for building stronger research partnerships between the government, universities and the wider space industry in Australia.”