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ESA offers novel solution to reduce avalanche risk

Paris, France: In Norway, avalanches pose a risk to road users every year. Through a successful pilot study called Innovators II–AvalRS, European Space (ESA) has now shown that satellites can help Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) in monitoring avalanche falls.
According to ESA’s press statement, One of the best ways of ensuring that avalanches can be detected and accurately mapped from space is to observe those that have occurred and compare them with satellite images. Through the project, avalanches were identified using very high-resolution optical satellite imagery along with additional information such as digital terrain models.
After preparation of the core data, avalanches could then be mapped using cutting-edge pattern recognition methods. The project tested two different approaches: one focusing on the texture of the avalanche deposits and the other focusing on topographic features of the avalanche such as aspect direction. Both methods yielded promising results. 
About challanges, ESA said that distinguishing shadows and rocks and to make classifications within areas in shadow are major challenges. Heidi Bjordal from NPRA said, “If these remaining challenges can be overcome, this new method will give us a unique opportunity to validate the occurrence of avalanches.”
Source: ESA