Astrosat is working on a UK Space Agency project to stop deforestation of vast tracts of land in the Central American country.
A team from the firm, which is based in the former Doll Museum, now known as Copernicus Kirk, High Street, headed out to Central America to team up with UK and US-based company Earth Observation Ltd to help monitor forests and detect illegal timber removal. It is hoped their technology could help law enforcement agencies crack down on offenders.
The problem is persistent due to the forests of Guatemala being too big to be effectively monitored and managed using conventional techniques at hand.
Guatemala’s National Institute of Forestry has signed an agreement to implement a system of Forestry Management and Protection.
Astrosat, which specialises in earth observation using earth-viewing instruments, is leading the project, working with a consortium of firms Deimos, Telespazio Vega and EO Inc.
They sent their team to the country in February for two weeks with project manager Jenna Coull, joined by Astrosat founder Steve Lee; their head of international operations Ola Domagalska; George Dean, head of projects; Mick Walker, head of international government affairs; and head of data Arjan Geers.
Funding for the project is part of the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme – a five-year £152 million programme which supports the use of British expertise in satellite technology for international projects monitoring and addressing social and environmental issues.
The main aim of the agreement is to reduce the causes of deforestation in the departments of Peten, Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz by using cutting edge technology such as satellite remote sensing and the Global Navigation Satellite System. The project will monitor Guatemala’s forests from space with software installed on mobile phones or tablets.
Mr Lee said: “What we are working on here could be described as a CCTV system from space. With the data and information we can garner, we can help countries and communities. This, in effect, brings space into the Fair Trade arena, by helping local farmers and villagers to manage sustainable timber reserves. Illegal logging not only undercuts markets but has a devastating effect on vital ecosystems.”
Astrosat’s technology will help the Guatemalan government agencies to monitor large forested areas such as the rich and diverse Reserva de Biosfera Maya and a series of important national parks.
Working with Earth Observation, it will monitor areas of jurisdiction and particular types of trees to ensure that only permitted timber felling is allowed, creating a legal market for sustainably-managed forestry products.
Thomas Carter, British Ambassador to Guatemala, said: “This is a very significant contribution to the efforts of the Guatemalan authorities to reduce illegal logging and improve sustainable forest management. Guatemala is blessed with large areas of pristine forest and we want to support Guatemala in its efforts to conserve them. Forests have an essential role to play in combating global warming and this project will allow Guatemala to make a significant contribution to the international fight against climate change.”