The Earth-observation (EO) market enjoys a strong diversity of civil and commercial applications. And use cases will continue to increase, as the capacity for satellite-based observations is projected to explode this coming decade, with the launch of 80 percent more satellites by 2024 than were launched the prior decade (according to Euroconsult). On top of this projected capacity for satellite sensors is the wave of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) innovations that will help fill gaps for daily (if not real-time) insight into areas and markets of interest.
With so many new sensing platforms, it’s going to be an exciting ride to see what new custom solutions arise, and what new and interesting markets will gain greater insights from these inputs. At Earth Imaging Journal, we’re committed to being on the forefront of this revolution, and we’re eager to cover interesting case studies in our three main pillars of coverage: geospatial intelligence, natural resources and infrastructure projects.
Although some would argue that all Earth observations are “geospatial intelligence,” most know that we refer to the defense and security market, where the term became codified with the renaming of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. It’s no secret that most revenue of the non-secret U.S. commercial satellite imagery business comes from this market, and it’s difficult to tell how much additional revenue goes into the manufacture and operation of secret satellites.
This market sector continues to lead the research and development investments of the entire EO sector, although sequestration has taken some toll. The ongoing interest and investment in real-time information fusion for increased situational awareness will improve the insight of all EO practitioners in the coming decade.
Natural Resources and Earth Science
The sustainable management of Earth’s resources in forestry, agriculture and the environment is a concern for all. With increasing population pressures, including a rise in carbon-dioxide emissions and resulting climate change, there are a lot of Earth-system interactions that need greater measurement. And better measurement of natural resources for improved management is imperative as these pressures and compounding changes occur.
Thankfully, we’ve made many impressive advancements in our ability to monitor and map the natural environment. Not only can we now discern species in a tropical forest with impressive visualization capacity (bit.ly/1j2cGUk), this technology also provides a better understanding of human impacts.
Monitoring and mapping of our built environment also are experiencing impressive gains, expressly in the rise of reality-capture technologies. Instead of survey points as the input for engineering-grade accuracy about the existing environment, we now have high-resolution 3D models captured from the ground or air via LiDAR and other sensors, and increasingly from highly nimble drone platforms.
An improved ability to model our built environment fuels a new practice of virtual design and construction. The ability to design and build a building virtually offers incredible improvements in efficiency; a much better understanding of materials, costs and timelines; and the ability to design around performance.
As in all EO, information collection fuels models that allow humans to look more deeply into the process and interactions ongoing in our systems. It’s a fascinating and exciting time to be involved in Earth observation.