SOLVE magazine Issue 02 2021 | Page 21

SUBJECT HEADING HERE SPACE? assessing geohazards to better communicate that

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He first pursued this in the 1990s , inspired by the STORY increased BY AUTHOR availability NAME HERE of free satellite images and free and open-source software ( FOSS ) for mapping . With other digital mapping enthusiasts , he organised workshops and authored a techniques handbook for the Royal Geographical Society .
From Professor Teeuw ’ s initial interest in developing low-cost digital mapping for researchers with limited funding , he and his team have developed methods of digital mapping , monitoring and modelling that focus on the needs of emergency management and sustainable development in low-income countries .
“ The biggest barrier we identified in accessing satellite data and mapping information was what we call ‘ digital data poverty ’. Typically that translates into a lack of internet availability , limiting access to otherwise abundant sources of online information and training for disaster risk reduction activities .”
The value of Professor Teeuw ’ s approach was recognised by UNITAR in 2018 , when it invited his team to join the CommonSensing consortium . The three-year CommonSensing project , funded by the UK Space Agency , is using satellite imagery to help small island states prepare for – and cope with – the increased frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change .
CROWD POWER As part of this capability , Professor Teeuw has incorporated the texting and image capabilities of mobile phone systems to provide and receive information , allowing for ‘ crowd sensing ’ in which people on the ground provide vital information to the outside world .
“ Mobile phones can take a photo , and tag its date , time and location with GPS ,” Professor Teeuw notes . “ We store that phone photo data centrally and link back to the satellite image of that area , creating a link between two types of ‘ big data ’: remote sensing from space and crowd sensing on the ground .”
Research and teaching activities have developed in line with these applications . A disaster response simulation exercise for the Crisis and Disaster Management Master ’ s course has been developed – in conjunction with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service – into an international disaster response exercise , the SIMEX . Run annually at locations around Portsmouth , the SIMEX has developed into the largest exercise of its type in the world .
Many emergency response organisations in the UK and internationally are now training their staff and testing procedures and new technologies through the SIMEX exercises .
ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS MANAGEMENT Requests for the satellite imaging mapping are growing . For example , satellite radar imagery is being used to peer through the cloud that hovers over Colombian rainforests . Professor Teeuw ’ s team is using radar images from ESA to map and monitor the devastation caused by illegal gold mining and associated deforestation along rivers in the remote Choco region of Colombia . That information – as evidence for legal actions – is passed to organisations working to reduce the impacts of illegal mining through increased policing and prosecutions .
That now extends to using space-based observations to monitor emerging hazards from climate change . “ Sadly , crisis management and disaster response are growth industries ,” Professor Teeuw says .
These kinds of altruistic applications of space technology are also being adopted more generally across society . Examples include providing support for COVID-19 suppression strategies , such as relaying information about crowd dynamics in public spaces .
Funding and support are available for organisations and businesses seeking to incorporate space data into new services through the ESA Business Applications programme , part of the European Space Agency . The University of Portsmouth hosts one of the programme ’ s seven UK regional ambassadors , Tom Greenwood , who works directly with applicants for funding to develop new applications .
Previous funding calls have addressed becoming a plastic-less society , optimising railway networks , accessing cultural heritage and supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals .
“ Not only are we looking to help businesses with this programme , we ’ re also looking to generate much wider socio-economic impacts ,” Mr Greenwood says . “ Space is much more accessible than it ever has been , with more data being generated than ever before , making many more applications possible .”
Examples of recent projects include software that uses satellite navigation technology to map routes for cyclists to avoid the most congested and polluted roads , and helping to locate and clean up plastic in oceans .
“ Interested organisations can approach ESA with a business case and we can then provide guidance and , in some cases , investment to bring that vision to life ,” Mr Greenwood says .
“ Most people don ’ t realise it , but every day they are interacting with at least 25 satellites . Space is already integrated in our everyday lives in so many ways , but space data may not come to mind when you ’ re coming up with new ideas . There are some great opportunities to integrate satellite imagery and other space data into new innovations . I hope to see the industry continue to thrive in the coming years .”
Low Earth orbit : 1,200 miles . Mainly used for Earth observation
Medium Earth orbit : 12,000 miles . Mainly used for satellite navigation
Geostationary orbit : 22,200 miles . Mainly used for satellite communication
ISSUE 02 / 2021