24 July 2006: A new airborne campaign is being carried out as part of the development procedure for two of ESA’s Sentinel missions. The Sentinel satellite series, which are being developed by ESA in support of the European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme (GMES), will meet the needs of the user in a variety of application areas by providing real-time services relating to the land, sea, atmosphere and ice fields.
The ESA AgriSAR campaign, which finishes on 25 July, represents an ambitious large-scale attempt to assess the performance of the Sentinel-1 (C-band SAR) and Sentinel-2 (Optical Multi-spectral) for land applications. AgriSAR represents one of the few, land-oriented campaign of its type including frequent airborne SAR coverage during the entire crop-growing season -from sowing to harvest.
In addition to SAR coverage, optical data using the Canadian CASI from ITRES Research and the Spanish AHS from the National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA) were acquired during critical phases of the growing season in June and July. The June acquisitions were extended to include a forest and grassland site in central Netherlands, used by the EU EAGLE project.
“Because the AgriSAR campaign extended through the growing season we will now be able to see how the information from the radar and optical data changes with time as the crops grow and mature – we’ve never been able to do this before,” says Irena Hajnsek from DLR, one of the coordinators of the campaign.
“Ultimately, I am convinced that AgriSAR will lead to a better understanding of how to best interpret and retrieve information over land using SAR and optical data, helping ESA with the design and implementation of future SAR and optical Earth Observation missions”, she added.
One of the key tasks will be to take the airborne data and use it to simulate the Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 imagery. This will allow ESA to assess the suitability of Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 sensor and mission characteristics for land applications and will be useful for the end-user community. In addition, there will undoubtedly be strong scientific use of the data in developing new methods for retrieving information on soil and vegetation characteristics from SAR and optical images.
A total of 60 people from 15 different institutes in eight different countries were involved in the AgriSAR activity, with around 40 people participating during the intense measurements periods.