Category: Remote Sensing


National Applications Office program on hold

MSNBC reported that the National Applications Office, set to open its doors on Monday, Oct. 1st, has been put on hold so that legal and privacy issues raised by some members of Congress about the domestic use of spy satellites. There is currently no timetable as to when, or if, the program will be launched.

Spy Satellites to be Used Domestically

This story has been all over the traditional news – the US is opening up domestic use of spy satellites. The news is rather troubling for privacy concerns. As the article points out, the US is certainly moving into complicated and murky legal waters, as there are specific bans on military use in the domestic arena. While there has certainly been a lot of concern about private companies documenting information, I have to wonder if there will be a greater outcry when it’s tax dollars being used instead of private dollars. I also wonder if this will press to improve our remote sensing capabilities, much like what was mentioned in the FLIIWG working group Sue blogged yesterday.

I can’t imagine this will be the last we hear on this specific issue.

US releases National Land Imaging Program plan

One of our readers, Michelle, emailed me a press release announcing the release of the US National Land Imaging Program plan, which is the result of the work done by Future of Land Imaging Interagency Working Group (FLIIWG). The plan is contained within a 120-page report, which is available here, and offers a set of policy recommendations, most importantly the creation of a National Land Imaging Program under the direction of the Department of the Interior. The actual plan itself is detailed in the first 8 pages of the document, with the remainder devoted to Appendices and related documents. I think one of the more interesting points in the policy report is the statement that, despite its amazing success, the Landsat program “has never been considered a truly operational capability. All Landsat satellites have been justified, built, and flown as experimental, scientific research systems with no assurance of the long-term continuity of the data.”

For those not already familiar with the issues related to US medium-resolution remote sensing programs, the supporting documents contained in the appendices and exhibits really give a good background about the history of satellite programs like Landsat.

Galileo-GPS agreement in the works

The US and EU are working out an agreement (that may be signed as early as this week) to allow both US GPS and EU Galileo satellites to send data on the same frequency, meaning that receivers would be able to get signals from both systems. In theory, this would potentially double the number of visible satellites for a receiver equipped to handle both GPS and Galileo data streams. Although the Galileo system won’t be operational until at least 2012, the agreement will likely be an impetus for manufacturers of receivers to begin to look at the production of devices that could utilize data from both systems.

Via Yahoo! News

Remote Sensing Satellites Used to Find Egyptian Ruins

This is a nice mix of the new finding the old. Satellite sensors are being used to find possible sites for further exploration in Egypt. The remote sensing data makes finding the sites easier than more traditional means of digging around. Thus far, dozens of sites have been found that span as far back as 5,000 years ago. While some of this may be going on in other parts of the world already, this is a first for Egypt. It will be interesting to see what these efforts can add to our knowledge of the ancient world.

Planet Action – geospatial engagement

This is a great example of what ISDE5 is all about. SPOT Image in conjunction with partners ESRI, Infoterra, and Unesco is presenting Planet Action which is a participatory/educational site that:

aims to support projects all around the world whether from scientific or civil origins, bringing these communities as well as various industries together in an effort to foster awareness and coping strategies

and will focus on an array of earth observation ideas. It has a great subtitle of “Spot the impacts, engage in action.” We missed the unveiling on Monday, but there is a press event of Thursday so we will try to get an interview then. Head over to the Planet Action site to find out more on your own.

US wants to censor satellite imagery

The good folks over at Ars Technica are reporting an AP article that says the US Intelligence community wants to have the license to censor satellite imagery. The idea is for the government to be able to control what the public can and cannot see in times of war or emergency via satellite. That way, people can’t take advantage of the situation by using the imagery. Although I can see the NGIA’s concern, I have to say I’m highly skeptical of the ability for the government to even begin to do this. Buying up all the data like they did before Afghanistan is impractical and the US isn’t the only game in the space town anymore. How can you stop data from around the world making it onto the Internet for all to see? Also, it’s always important to remember that that which can harm often can do good as well. Certainly however one feels on the issue, it will be an interesting development to follow.

First images from CARTOSAT-2 released

I know I have been quiet on the blogging front this week, as I am trying to cram in catching up on grading work, lecturing, and preparing presentation for the big AAG conference next week in San Francisco, but I wanted to put up a quick note that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) released the first imagery from CARTOSAT-2, the 12th in the line of IRS remote sensing satellites, which was launched on January 10, 2007. The panchromatic imagery has a spatial resolution of 1 meter, and will be available for purchase commercially. India is looking to continue its presence in the international remotely-sensed data market, and
will also be using the new imagery for their own domestic mapping needs.

Via The Hindu

HDView – Gigapixel panorama photo viewer

The capture and use of ultra high resolution images is really only at the beginning stages, and one of the issues of course is how to let people actually see them in a way that demonstrates their amazing resolution. Microsoft Research has come up with a new beta viewer for these high-res images, called HDView. Basically, it is a browser-based viewer (currently only available for Internet Explorer and the Windows environment) that allows the user to pan and zoom high resolution images with very wide fields of view and sizes that number in the billions of pixels. By downloading and caching portions of the image, HDView allows smooth movement around the image and while zooming in and out (at least on my machine). The HD View viewer also gives the image a projection of sorts to give it a 3D-like perspective when zoomed in. Also, there is a command line tool to allow you can create your own HD View content and publish it on the web.

I’ve been playing around with HD View for a little while today, and I have to say that zooming in and out of the sample images and just looking at the level of detail is really amazing. If you decide to try it out, you should know that it doesn’t necessarily work well yet on all machines, and it does need to install an ActiveX Control.

Listening to the world…cool and funny

A little sonic cartography for your Friday listening pleasure. Ever wanted to know what the elevation of a trip from Tokyo to Rome sounds like, curious as to what satellite paths sound like…head over to to get an idea. The site takes elevation data and uses it like a vinyl record, so that the hills and valleys represent the grooves in a record creating the sound. You can subscribe to their podcast to listen to daily samples. Really cool. The other part of the site is the great ‘hardware’ that they offer and the numbers sold…you have to love the tongue in cheek hullabaloo. My favorite so far, the podcast based on SPOT flight path, would be a great bass track for an electronic song.


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