Today, the analysis and use of satellite images is commonplace. Just 15 years ago, however, only a handful of specialists worked with these valuable data. Since then, a particular niche expertise has rapidly developed – the use of satellite data for disaster management.
Earth observation satellites fly at distances of up to several hundred kilometres from Earth and can provide detailed information that assists relief workers on the ground.
On 22 June 2016 at 05:55 CEST, the BIROS (Bi-Spectral Infrared Optical System) microsatellite was successfully launched into space from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India on board a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
The Earth trembles, rivers burst their banks and tsunamis destroy coastal regions. Natural and man-made disasters make our high technology society ever more sensitive. The current disaster management systems have the drawback that they cannot be flexibly adapted to the respective situation. Hazards and disasters have a similar course but are nevertheless different. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has developed a system that takes this into account. PHAROS (Project on a Multi-Hazard Open Platform for Satellite Based Downstream Services) supports crisis managers, operations managers and relief workers in every phase of disaster response. The system is built as an open service platform and can be flexibly adapted to the circumstances at hand. Earth observation data, measurements from sensors, simulation tools and communication technologies are combined in a single platform.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has initiated a new chapter in earth observation.
According to "Landmine Monitor 2015" every day around 10 people – as well children – are injured or even killed by landmines or other explosive remnants of war. Probably a huge and rather unknown amount of such devices is still installed, posing a constant threat even long after the end of a conflict.
Sailing in the regions that polar researcher Arved Fuchs is currently navigating in his ship 'Dagmar Aaen' is a not an easy task. The 'Ocean Change' expedition is travelling around the Antarctic Peninsula, stopping off at a number of research stations to investigate how climate change is impacting the local environment.
To communicate with one another, ships use radio, light signals or flags –but these channels are not suitable for transmitting large volumes of data. Only expensive satellite communications systems can enable data transfer at higher rates.
With its research and management divisions, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) contributes to the solution of global challenges. The work includes not only the reduction of emissions caused by air transport, but also highly automated travel for the mobility of the future, cost-effective energy storage solutions and environmental monitoring for the protection of the atmosphere.
Indonesia is on fire – the island state is currently facing a bitter struggle against forest and peat fires on Sumatra and Borneo, most likely caused by illegal 'slash and burn' farming to clear the land for palm oil or timber plantations. The extremely dry conditions resulting from the El Niño weather phenomenon exacerbate this problem.
From 9 September 2015, test flights are taking place on three consecutive days in a simulated disaster scenario as part of the EU's 'Driving Innovations in Crisis Management for European Resilience' (DRIVER) project. Harrowing scenes are being simulated in Braunschweig on those days. A major flood has covered a wide area around the Tankumsee, a lake near Gifhorn; surrounding roads are also affected and people are stranded in the water.
At 13:28 CEST on 2 July 2015, the alarm in the Wünsdorf forest fire centre went off. Smoke had been seen rising from the forest district in Baruth. The German Meteorological Service had previously raised the risk of forest fire to the highest alert level. In the past, employees of the Brandenburg state forestry office sat in the cramped towers – 100 steps above the ground – using binoculars as they scanned the horizon for signs of forest fires during the hot summer months.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (Zentrum für satellitengestützte Kriseninformation; ZKI) is providing relief organisations in Nepal with reference maps of the Kathmandu region.
BIROS, a microsatellite capable of detecting forest fires from space, will be launched in 2015. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) HALO atmospheric research aircraft will be flying through the Monsoon winds in the summer of 2015, investigating the effect of large-scale airflows on polluted air masses above India.
Detecting, assessing and classifying disasters and then informing the world about it is a heavy burden for a 37-year-old who could pass for a 25-year-old student. But Cristina Párraga Niebla is up to the challenge. This is precisely what the EU Alert4All project, which the DLR scientist and project leader brought to a successful conclusion at the end of January 2013, was designed to do.
The first things the AISat satellite caught sight of were the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula and the Bering Sea – but at that time only one non-directional rod antenna was in use on board the satellite. Within eight minutes, the receiver picked up Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from 45 ships.
Right on schedule, at 06:19 CEST on 30 June 2014, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) AISat satellite journeyed into space aboard the PSLV-C23 launcher that departed from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, in India.
At first, the AISat satellite will be spinning rapidly after it has been carried into orbit by a launch vehicle that will depart from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, 80 kilometres north of Chennai, India, at 06:19 CEST on 30 June 2014.
On 20 May 2014 at the ILA Berlin Air Show, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the US corporation Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc. (TBE) signed an agreement to install and operate the imaging spectrometer DESIS (DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer) on board the International Space Station (ISS).
Mapping flood events, observing oil slicks in the oceans, detecting ice distribution in the sea and measuring ground movements with millimetric precision – just some of the tasks of Sentinel-1A, the new flagship in European Earth observation. The roughly 2.3-ton, four-metre-high, two-and-a-half-metre-wide satellite was launched from the European Spaceport in French Guiana at 23:02 CEST (18:02 local time) on 3 April 2014.