Nov 12, 2014

Canada looks to future from space

Satellite imagery a fast-growing industry

Estimated Article Reading Time: 2 min.

High-resolution imagery taken from space provides some of the best views back here on Earth.

Whether they’re used in assessing the aftermath of tragic and deadly industrial accidents, detecting potential environmental disturbances, or monitoring the status of oil and gas pipelines, those images can be incredibly valuable.

Earth Observation, or EO, is a fast-growing industry, with revenues expected to reach $5 billion in the next decade.

In a bid to ensure Canada gets its share, 12 companies here have been granted contracts totalling just under $6.7 million to deliver new products and services to the EO marketplace.

Their developments will be used in a wide range of activities, from helping the agricultural industry to monitor crops and aiding the energy sector to monitor pipelines to mapping Canada’s wetlands, river ice and forestry inventory. Satellite imagery and expertise is also used to support global humanitarian efforts and sustainable development.

Among the companies receiving a recent EO contract, Montreal’s Effigis Geo-Solutions, which will develop new techniques to enhance image resolution and improve the accuracy of classifications made from the images, many acquired from the RADARSAT2 commercial radar satellite launched in 2007.

Today, Earth observers like Effigis apply a pixel-based approach to their image analysis, and they can assess an object’s features, such as proximity, slope, elevation, item density, with incredible detail and accuracy.

In an urban setting, for example, the approach can define a park space as either vegetation, walking paths or playgrounds.

Another imaging technique, known as interferometry, can be used to create realistic surface models using digital data; they can be used to detect and assess very small ground deformations or structural movements that can affect pipelines, railroad tracks and other built structures.

Effigis is also the exclusive distributor of Pleiades satellite images for Canada, using veryhigh-resolution remote sensing applications built around four image spectral bands (blue, green, red, and IR) to deliver images at a ground scale of just a few centimetres.

Many Canadian EO firms are established business partners in global satellite imaging distribution networks, providing data to a number of business customers in serving aeronautics, agriculture, environment, forestry, engineering consulting, mines and oil, public services and telecommunications sectors.

Among them, many companies, researchers and projects springing from the Universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge, where expertise in space imaging and instrumentation are being developed at facilities, such as the Centre for Earth Observation Science.
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