19. October 2020
From the very beginning to current possibilities in remote sensing

The Ger­man Re­mote Sens­ing Da­ta Cen­ter (DFD) marks its 40th an­niver­sary

Receiving antenna in Inuvik
Re­ceiv­ing an­ten­na in In­u­vik
Image 1/3, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Receiving antenna in Inuvik

This im­age shows the large DFD re­search fa­cil­i­ty in the Arc­tic In­u­vik in north­ern Cana­da.
Overlay of an aerial image with an AI-based visualisation
Over­lay of an aeri­al im­age with an AI-based vi­su­al­i­sa­tion
Image 2/3, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Overlay of an aerial image with an AI-based visualisation

The im­age shows an aeri­al im­age of the mu­sic fes­ti­val ‘Rock am Ring’ in 2013, su­per­im­posed on­to the re­sult of an AI-based es­ti­ma­tion (blue dots). A man­u­al count es­ti­mat­ed 24,368 peo­ple. The trained al­go­rithm was ap­plied to the im­age and es­ti­mat­ed 25,332 peo­ple.
Damage mapping of the explosion in Beirut
Dam­age map­ping of the ex­plo­sion in Beirut
Image 3/3, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Damage mapping of the explosion in Beirut

On 4 Au­gust 2020 a pow­er­ful ex­plo­sion oc­curred in the Lebanese cap­i­tal, Beirut. With the help of a map pro­duced by DLR, the dam­age sit­u­a­tion on 5 Au­gust 2020 is clear­ly vis­i­ble. By com­par­ing a pre-event scene with a post-event scene, it is pos­si­ble to pro­vide an ini­tial overview of the af­fect­ed area and an es­ti­mate of the ma­jor loss­es in­curred.
  • The DLR Remote Sensing Data Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
  • Its decades of experience have brought about immense progress in remote sensing.
  • Focus: Earth observation, remote sensing, environment, climate, artificial intelligence

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Remote Sensing Data Center (Deutsche Fernerkundungsdatenzentrum; DFD) is now 40 years old. DFD has been receiving and analysing images from Earth observation satellites since 1980, with over 21 terabytes of data processed there every day. The German Satellite Data Archive (D-SDA) now offers access to 29 petabytes of remote sensing data, acquired over four decades. This volume of data is the equivalent of video material with a running time of over 800 years.

DFD is not the only one celebrating a big anniversary. The DLR Remote Sensing Technology Institute (Institut für Methodik der Fernerkundung; IMF) was founded twenty years ago. Since then, DFD and IMF have formed a unique alliance within DLR, today known as the Earth Observation Center (EOC), a leading international centre of excellence for satellite-based Earth observation. EOC spans the entire remote sensing system chain and combines the expertise of engineers, computer scientists, physicists and geoscientists.

Progress in remote sensing opens up new possibilities

"The developments in remote sensing that we are seeing today would have been unimaginable 40 years ago. At that time, the technology for receiving data from space was largely developed and constructed in house. The data were only accessible to a handful of researchers, who mostly used them to examine small details of Earth's surface," says Stefan Dech, Director of DFD. Today, DFD boasts an international network of ground stations with receiving facilities located everywhere from the Canadian Arctic to Antarctica, receiving data 24 hours a day, all year round. DFD uses these to create global products, such as a highly accurate elevation map of Earth. By deploying big data analytics and artificial intelligence, DFD uses current data flows to obtain information about the global level of natural and artificial water reservoirs, estimate the production of aquacultures worldwide and create an accurate picture of the global distribution of human settlements. This information can also be useful in the event of environmental or natural disasters, provide warnings of health risks and contribute towards an understanding of global processes such as ecological degradation and climate change.

Remote sensing is proving useful during the ongoing pandemic. In order for organisers of events such as concerts, trade fairs or demonstrations to be able to avoid dangerous congestion in gatherings of people and ensure security and protection against infection, they need an up-to-date picture of visitor numbers. A 'learning algorithm' developed by IMF scientists is able to count people automatically using aerial images, photographs and videos, to determine the density of crowds. This counting is performed in real time and in accordance with data protection regulations; individuals cannot be identified – only outlines and contours typical of the human form can be distinguished. Elsewhere, artificial intelligence is able to recognise and classify lane markings from Earth observation data to provide up-to-date information for automated driving worldwide. "The AI processes that we have developed generate useful geoinformation of a previously unattainable quality on the basis of Earth observation data," explains Richard Bamler, Director of IMF.

The enormous amount of new Earth observation data, as well as the new capabilities for evaluating big data rapidly and globally in major processing environments in the cloud and in computing centres with the help of AI processes is such that huge steps will be taken over the next 40 years. This will make again for an interesting trip down memory lane at the next major anniversary.

Contact
  • Daniela Höpfl
    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Oberp­faf­fen­hofen
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Pub­lic Af­fairs and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: Tel.: +49 8153 28-4501
    Fax: +49 8153 28-1243
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Weßling
    Contact
  • Nils Sparwasser
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Ger­man Re­mote Sens­ing Da­ta Cen­ter (DFD)
    Sci­ence Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Vi­su­al­i­sa­tion
    Telephone: +49 8153 28-1316
    Fax: +49 8153 28-1313
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Weßling
    Contact

Cookies help us to provide our services. By using our website you agree that we can use cookies. Read more about our Privacy Policy and visit the following link: Privacy Policy

Main menu