A 2018 report by the London Economics entitled Value of satellite-derived Earth Observation capabilities to the UK Government today and by 2020-London Economics, July 2018, discussed the value of satellite-derived Earth Observation data. It stated that the use of this type of imagery enables both an operational cost saving and an improved service relative to the use of aerial photography, when used to underpin forest monitoring. The Forestry Commission GB (FCGB) is responsible for the monitoring of British forests and it currently uses satellite-derived Earth Observation data to identify and monitor land use change in forests and woodlands, clear cutting and clear felling as well as the planting of young trees. The document reports that within the next five 5 years, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data could potentially help identify young trees and even replace ground surveys. The remote accessibility to site activities would enable more regular monitoring of different locations which could ensure that young trees that are replanted are more likely to survive. This would not be possible without the use of satellites.
This is an excellent example of a very real, tangible benefit of satellites, to one particular form of tree management.
Satellite development shows no signs of slowing.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company with headquarters in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to ultimately to enable missions to Mars (currently estimated to be as soon as 2024). SpaceX has developed several launch vehicles, the most notable being Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. These provide much lower cost solutions for projecting satellites into low earth orbit than the traditional shuttle-based system previously used by NASA.
Throughout 2020, the Falcon vehicles have been used to launch Starlink – a satellite constellation being built around the Earth to provide satellite Internet access. As of 24 October 2020, SpaceX had successfully launched 895 Starlink satellites. Current plans are to launch up to 60 more satellites per flight, with launches as often as every two weeks. In total nearly 12,000 satellites will be deployed. This may even be increased to 30,000. There are still regulatory hurdles to overcome and many more satellites need to be launched before the service can be offered outside of the US in 2021, but initial testing is promising. For more information on the Space X Falcon Vehicles visit here: https://www.spacex.com/vehicles/falcon-9/
With the possibility of up to 30,000 satellites deployed by SpaceX providing global coverage, one wonders how this may impact and benefit activity in our area of expertise: remote connectivity could be drastically improved; live streaming surveys or site meetings from even more remote locations possible; more accurate plotting of the positions of trees; increases in the use of Web Map Services (WMS) and up to date imagery streamed direct to device. The ability to download and upload larger volumes of data, faster and more reliably will mean real-time data uploads (and reporting) could be possible in even more isolated locations.
Technology is key to how we work at Treework Environmental Practice and so it is possible to see the way for a number of improvements to our ability to connect, with the deployment of the Starlink system. Such a significant enhancement to the available web-based infrastructures will enable a deeper level of innovation within our remote working environment which in turn will mean a higher quality and even more responsive service for our clients.