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Symposium explores opportunities in satellite business

Paris, France: Part of the World Satellite Business Week, the 3rd Symposium on Earth Observation Business opened here today by demonstrating the growing usage of earth observation (EO) data and services in various vertical segments. The symposium is organised by Euroconsult, a consulting and analyst firm specialised in space sector. Opening the discussion on the use of EO data in energy sector, Stephen Coulson, Head of Industry Section, Directorate of EO, ESA Centre for Earth Observation (ESRIN) said ESA has been providing services in renewable energy sector, on-shore exploration, off-shore operations, environmental impact pertaining to land and marine and also sustainable development reporting – population dynamics in line with global reporting initiative (GRI) guidelines.

ESA has been working for the past 10 years to help national user organisations like ministries of environment, urban, maritime security, humanitarian aid, flood and fire risk, information services for disaster risk management, he said adding that ESA discusses with user communities to understand their technical needs and known performances.

Colin Grant, GSSC Core member, BP talked about EO data use in oil and gas industry with specific reference to BP. He said EO data is being used for many years – particularly onshore for geological and environmental applications. However, he said many oil and gas companies do not have in-house EO expertise for processing and analysing EO products and often EO data is provided as part of an overall service rather than as individual images and products. There is no single focal point for EO services – may be in engineering, environmental, geomatics, subsurface, geophysics, logistics, operations or project departments and look to external consultants to provide end products and services to meet a specific user need. There is also a lack of knowledge on what services exist and how they might be applied within the industry.

Improving the collaboration and communication between users and providers, transfer of development products into operations, improving EO access and knowledge of industry best practices, developing standard product specifications and quality measures, new licensing schemes for multi-uses,  easier access to EO capability information and applications this supports are some of the recommendations he put forth.

Nikolay Sevastiyanov, General Designer, Gazprom Space Systems discussed the application of aerospace methods of monitoring for the benefit of oil and gas industry. He said EO data is used for prospecting and appraisal of minerals deposits, mapping, property registration and infra monitoring, emergencies monitoring and accidents. To achieve this, Gazprom uses communication and earth observation satellites, radar etc. As of now, it offers monitoring of gas pipeline and surface deformation monitoring.
Opening the discussion on environment and resources, Fred Stolle, People and Ecosystem Program, World Resources Institute said that more than 50 countries need to carry out wall to wall annual mapping and accounting of their forests and carbon as part of the climate change negotiations.

Indicating that there exists a large opportunity for EO community in the sector, he said public investment in forestry is at all time low in early 2000s and development aid has had no clear impact on biodiversity. Under UNFCC, countries need MRV – a measuring, reporting and verification system – annul systematic delivery of reliable, accurate deforestation (carbon) numbers; not a one off map. It needs long term planning and functioning and needs to be integrated in policy. The parameters that need to be brought under MRV include deforestation, degradation, forest conservation and sustainable forest management. He said at present there is a void in systematic satellite data on deforestation in tropical countries, new cost effective technologies rapidly developing but known to client, need the resources to increase human capacity and transfer knowledge, better access to data especially in developing countries.

Jean Charles Deswarte, plant Physiologist, ARVALIS (French agriculture research institute) presented details about the satellite based data for crop management – FARMSTAR – being developed in association with Astrium – to use satellite data to monitor crop and give advises to farmers. The system is operational in northern France. FARMSTAR helps farmers to diagnose accidents, saves time, ability to adapt crop management to special and annual variations, traceability, capability to give numerous, precise advices in a short time and provides compatibility with on-board computers for GPS based modulations – precision agriculture.

Identifying the imagery requirements for accurate navigation, Herve Clauss, Director of database operations, Tom Tom said the imagery need to have high resolution, accuracy, seamless mosaic, fresh, complete, cloud free and colour balanced. However, he said that business models need to be evolved for guaranteed service levels, is based on pay per use analysis and which supports scalability in the future.

EO satellite operators
Opening the discussion on the trends and future directions for EO operators, Matt O’Connell, President and CEO, GeoEye said earth observation is being used more than ever in decision making and it demonstrated its value to the users. The ease of data delivery through the Web creates lot of value to the user, he underscored and added that it is now important to squeeze in more information and deliver it efficiently.  

Rafay Khan, Senior Vice President, DigitalGlobe said that the ability of satellite operators to connect allows us to move the industry to the next phase. Customers are looking to get more value out of data and want information analysis. He said EO market is transitioning from pixel /picture to what kind of information can be provided through the imagery. The ecosystem we need to create with partners  is to create value to the customers, he added.

David Hargreaves, Vice President and General Manager, MDA Corporation said the big thrust for MDA’s business today is leveraging vertical integration in its satellite chain. He said that multiple platforms is the way to go for the industry.

Marcello Maranesi, CEO, e-GEOS said that all-weather satellites have increased his company’s delivery capabilities tremendously. He then discussed a new technique being developed by 3-GEOS that integrated optical and radar imagery. However, he said the technique needs to be further explored and exploited on before it can be taken to the users.

Manfred Krischke, CEO RapidEye, said that with the constellation of five satellites, RapidEye covers very large areas very quickly. It monitors change detection and environment protection applications. The success of RapidEye is through building partnerships and creating distribution channels, he added.  

After the initial comments from the top satellite operators in the world, the session opened up to an interesting discussion and debate in identifying the trends and the direction of EO market.

Source: Our Correspondent