Land subsidence on the radar
Poland has a strong tradition of coal mining and coal-fired power. Coal was the basis of the country’s industrialization, and today coal-fired power still accounts for over 80 % of total electricity generation.
Exploitable hard coal reserves are located in Upper- Lower Silesia, and in the Lublin basin in the east of Poland, with the Upper Silesian coalfield accounting for 78.9% of the total.
Despite their significance for the economy of Poland, mines in many cases have a negative impact on their neighborhood. One of the effects of mining is land deformation, manifested by the occurrence of e.g. subsidence basins. The problem of mining damage occurs not only during the mining period but also many years after the mine has ceased operation.
Geological disasters, including ground deformation, fractures, and collapse, are serious problems in coal mining regions, which have threatened the sustainable development of the local industry – the safety of residents.
“Everywhere you look on Earth, you see something new” says Paul Rosen, an InSAR pioneer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Over the past 5 years, we have managed to analyze the subsidence of land caused by coal mining in the area of more than 3 000 km2 in 54 municipalities in south-eastern Poland.
Our analyzes using SAR images from commercial and public satellites identified not only damage to homes, but also roads, tracks, power lines, gas pipelines, bridges, and many, many more. Owners of private properties and undeveloped plots of land – where subsidence prevents their agricultural use and threatens the stability of buildings – were also affected. The value of the subsidence of the basin in some communes it even exceeds one meter per year, reaching values of even several meters over 10 years. Therefore, post-mining subsidence causes unimaginable economic losses and poses a threat to health.
An innovative answer to the problem
To identify the above-mentioned problems and find a solution to them, SATIM, using its many years of experience in working with SAR imagery, has developed the OsiadanieTerenu.pl online portal. The mechanism of operation of the application is based on the use of satellite radar imagery, and then semi-automatically processed by analysts and transformed into a graphic form.
As a result, modern and technologically advanced images presenting identified changes on the ground surface are legible and presented on the portal in an accessible way – in the form of a map with ranges and values of subsidence occurrence. The OsiadanieTerenu.pl application facilitates the user’s control over areas degraded by mining activities and automatically generates reports containing quarterly subsidence values in centimeters. Moreover, OsiadanieTerenu.pl includes the possibility to review archival data and the function of automatic alert in case of detecting new vertical ground movement.
Another product developed at SATIM based on radar imaging is a monitoring service to support different phases of landslide risk management. The service combines existing, established elements as landslide velocity maps derived from stacks of satellite SAR data using Persistent Scatterer Interferometry with completely new monitoring elements, as urgently required during crisis situations. The resulting products are reports on the status of landslide areas located within the boundaries of the district or detailed reports for selected landslides containing: basic geological information on the studied area including location, applied method of data processing, map with survey points, a graph showing displacements of selected PSI points in time.
Continual monitoring of ground deformation and landslide is important for early detection, mechanism understanding, countermeasure implementation, and deformation prediction. Detecting the features and identifying the potential risk is important for decision-makers to prevent geological disasters and for residents, too. It is vital to monitor possibly affected areas with nearly real-time up-to-date surveillance because occurring effects may entail lasting changes and influences on the environment.
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) interferometry which is an advanced detection and monitoring technology slow ground movements, and currently is the most accurate and modern of all available methods. Together with our online portal www.osiadanieterenu.pl , it is an excellent source of information for all interested entities.
No other technology researching the land subsidence could produce such a comprehensive survey. Now we can measure centimeter changes across a swath hundreds of kilometers wide in a short time and with great efficiency.
Stopping climate change with earth observation
Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published their Sixth Assessment on Climate Change, in which they present us with some rather grave news. Climate change is here, and it’s here to stay!
How we react now will determine the direction that we will progress towards, collectively, as a society. Some of the topics covered in this report, which we really should start focusing on, are:
- Human influence as the main driver of global glacier retreat.
- Increase in the global acidification of the ocean, making it difficult for some marine species to survive.
- Human driven Green House Gas (GHG) emissions increasing the global surface temperature.
- Human induced climate change affecting many weather and climate extremes in all regions of the globe.
- The increase in global surface temperature
The five points mentioned are, probably, the most important aspects of climate change that we should consider. There are different ways to try to combat, stop, or slow down climate change. But, a tool for doing this that is not mentioned nearly enough is Earth Observation (EO). Geospatial imaging and EO are ideally fit for helping the fight against climate change because of the complementary data that they provide, the ability to see gradual changes accurately and over a long term scale (such as melting ice & glaciers), or even simply natural resource management.
What is Earth Observation?
Well, the name itself is rather intuitive, if you ask me. EO is the process of observing the earth from above with the help of sensors or cameras. They are generally attached to a satellite or other flying/floating/freefalling object. So, pretty much anything that is up and over your head, far up in the sky, that has a camera or sensor attached to it, is an EO apparatus. But, to keep this simple, let’s stick to the idea of EO satellites.
There are really two main types of EO satellites: Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Optical. An optical satellite is a traditional satellite that produces, a regular image of the earth from space, like this.
The problem with Optical satellite imagery is that it can only be utilized approximately 25% of the time. There are many factors that contribute to the ineffectiveness of Optical satellite imagery. They have limitations. Cloud cover or darkness can render these standard images incomplete or useless, leaving blindspots when monitoring.
Now, since we have the easy part out of the way, here is a SAR satellite image. Radar satellites actively send their own radio waves towards their target and then measure what is reflected. It enables them to cover large areas in a very short time. The instrument does not require sunlight. It can be used to image areas during the night and the day, and in all weather conditions. But SAR image processing is not easy and extremely difficult to interpret.
Different EO satellites are usually launched in constellations. A well-known constellation is the European Union’s Sentinel Constellation, of which there are 6 (Sentinel 1 through Sentinel 6). Each constellation is based on two satellites that fulfill the revisit and coverage requirements, which provide robust datasets for the Copernicus Services. The reason why the Sentinels are so popular is because the data that they create is free, and, let’s be honest – who doesn’t love free data? Moreover, Each mission focuses on a different aspect of Earth observation; Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Land monitoring, and the data is of use in many applications.
How can EO be used to help with the impact of climate change?
Now that you know about the satellites and Sentinels missions, let’s step back a bit and dive deeper into how EO can be used to help with or fight the impact that climate change can, and will, have on the world and global society. An increase of the global surface temperature can have many negative implications for the world. We are currently experiencing some of the early warning signs of an increased global surface temperature. There are droughts, wildfires, increased rainstorms, and, as a result, increased flooding.
To fight or counteract the effects of climate change, satellite data can and even need to be used. Satellite data provides authoritative information about more than half of the 50 crucial climate change variables.
Satellite measurements of Earth’s temperature, greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels, atmospheric gases, dwindling ice, monitoring IUU fishing, ocean pollution, and forest cover, etc, are essential for improving the understanding of climate change and predicting the future of the Earth.
And so for example the Sentinel-3 mission, which is mainly for applications for the ocean and coastal monitoring, numerical weather and ocean prediction, sea-level change and sea-surface topography monitoring, ocean primary production estimation and land-cover change mapping, and the Sentinel-4 mission, which is to monitor key air quality trace gases and aerosols over Europe.
The above-mentioned missions plus innovations such as the miniaturization of satellites, AI, ML, and high-speed data transfer have made satellites an integral part of the climate change mission. Earth Observation data is our “eye in the sky”. Without these inputs, decision-makers, governmental leaders, and scientists won’t be able to understand, analyze and predict the impact of climate change, and formulate effective strategies.
Within the next year, many new satellite missions will be launched (e.g. UMBRA) with enhanced image resolution and better temporal resolutions. So let’s make SAR easy and help with or fight the impact of climate change. It will be crucial if we hope to save our world. If you would like to know more about SATIM, satellite technology, or innovations in the space industry please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
How SAR can help seaport and maritime logistics?
Maritime logistics experienced a huge storm in 2020, which indicated the need to accelerate its digital transformation on many levels. The surge in trade after the first wave of the pandemic, the Suez Canal blockage, and U.S. West Coast port congestion made ports experienced a record number of vessels waiting for terminal space at the seaport early in the year.
Port congestion and the resulting disruptions in global supply chains have been a constant in recent times and pose unexpected, big challenges. Lars Jensen, the founder of container consultancy Vespucci Maritime, has estimated that 10% of the world’s shipping capacity has been taken out due to port congestion issues.
According to IHS Markit, the waiting time of ships in the port has doubled since 2019. The average number of hours spent by container ships in the port in May 2021 raised. The average waiting time in America is 92 h, in Northern European ports – 69 h, and 40 hours in East Asia. Global waterways and maritime are more complex and less predictable. A container congestion crisis has been brewing off the coast of Southern California for many months.
Digital era of shipping
About 20 years ago, the digital era of shipping has started. Many shipowners monitor ships through AIS, RF, or VMS services, and more and more ports monitor their occupancy with the use of remote systems.
The main problem with this is that vessel detection technology was designed for vessels. The limitations, such as consciously trying to turn off them are many. It makes that the general maritime awareness image is extremely distorted. AIS signals can also be spotty, and the signals in ports are crowded and oftentimes interfere with each other. Moreover, in many cases, the information provided is not clear, with it often being distorted, left out, or incomplete.
How can satellite SAR-based observations support port development?
Future requirements for safe, environmentally friendly, and efficient trade operations, require new technologies in every part of the supply chain.
The best technology for vessel detection and port monitoring comes from satellite imagery, specifically Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). SAR is an all-weather and all-condition technology. It is necessary at the time of monitoring, such as the foggy or rainy season. The size of the observed area is also important. SAR images cover a much larger territorial area compared to optical ones.
Satellite data analytics are providing seaport and maritime logistic companies with innovative solutions. They can respond faster and more efficiently to major changes and unexpected situations that cause serious costs. These tools allow for controlling supply chains remotely and seeing how busy the ports are. Moreover, it can be done from anywhere and in any weather conditions. This allows port personnel to focus on other important activities that generate direct income.
You’re probably now wondering, how can you begin to take advantage of this data? Working with SAR imagery as an end-user is not easy and simple for many reasons, especially access and expertise. You need to know how to get the imagery and what to do with it. That’s our role. We make SAR easy. We are TRANSLATOR of complex radar-based data into actionable information and we are building solutions that directly reply to our customers’ needs. If you’re interested, email us at email@example.com. We’d love to have a chat.
Fishing secrets and SAR technology
Fishing is a huge business that brings big economic benefits, while also having an important role to play in providing jobs and food security. The global seafood market is estimated to reach about $138,7 billion by 2027. Despite its international importance, the industry remains a mystery to a large extent.
Limited information and data on vessels’ locations, places where they operate, their owners, the amounts of their catches, and how these stocks are transported leads to illegal activities such as piracy, smuggling, or illegal fishing.
The problem of illegal fishing and its impact on the global seafood market
The global seafood market depends on a global fleet of fishing vessels. From trawlers to seiners and small boats, fishing vessels come in many sizes, designs, and destinations. This diversity and location make the industry extremely complicated. No one is able to fully estimate the exact number of vessels. And especially, their activities and challenges related to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing).
Global estimates suggest a minimum of 20% of seafood worldwide is caught illegally, representing economic losses between $10 to $23 billion and 11 to 25 million metric tons of fish. However, as this is a dark market, and many illegal activities take place at night or under the cover of difficult weather conditions, estimates are understated.
Fishing vessels – trawlers
SOUTH CHINA SEA (SCS) and fishing vessels
More than 50% of the fishing vessels in the world are estimated to operate in the South China Sea. This is an area of around 3.8 million square kilometers and is bordered by 12 countries/territories. These places are home to two billion people and represent some of the fastest developing economies in the world. It is one of the top 5 most productive fishing zones in the world in terms of total annual marine production. Moreover, it is one of the zones the most affected by illegal fishing. The South China Sea is currently almost 90% overfished and a very high percentage of fish stocks are used.
It is practically impossible to track all fishing activities in the SCS territories. It is because due to territorial disputes, and difficulties in identifying boats. Maritime activity is usually followed on the basis of Automatic Identification System (AIS), Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), or Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) technologies. This data shows a significant amount of catches in the areas. However, they are not accurate enough to fight illegal activities.
What are the limitations?
The mentioned data is good and relatively inexpensive, the possibility for AIS/VMS sensor interfere is quite common. Many fishing vessels don’t have these systems because they are small and they are under no obligation to use them. Conversely, they may be going dark to intentionally turn off the signal and hide their IUU fishing activities. Many dark vessels are reporting false identification or a series of them in order to distort maritime situational awareness.
Data from meteorological satellite sensors (VIIRS) are generally open access, are available in near real-time, and have long-term archives, but a major disadvantage is their spatial resolution at the level 750×750 m, which is too inaccurate when it comes to vessel detection.
Discover fishing vessels going dark
Thanks to international cooperation and new technology, we can make progress in tracking IUU fishing. Coastal states and the industry are working to improve the transparency and accountability of illegal maritime phenomena. Control systems such as AIS, VMS, or satellite optical images can be significantly supported by satellite radar-based imagery. They are accompanied by AI-based vessel detection and classification algorithms. All of that fills the gaps in understanding the problem and increases transparency in the fisheries sector.
By using SAR imagery you can get a more detailed analysis of fishing activity and improve the traceability of vessels. Everything regardless of weather conditions and of time of day. The effectiveness of actions to combat illegal fishing depends on many factors. The quality of the data, the ease of obtaining it, and our ability to interpret it, for instance. SAR data with sub-meter resolution is already available on the market. New opportunities allow the development of AI-based solutions. Finally, a new era of SAR will come, where commercial access to data will be possible and simple.
So, let’s make SAR easy and improve the monitoring of seas and oceans. It will be crucial if we hope to save our fisheries and our oceans. If you would like to know more about SATIM, our technology, or products please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
Oil theft labyrinth in Niger Delta and SAR technology
The world drives over a third of its total energy production from oil. As a result, the countries that control the world’s oil reserves often have economic power. Nigeria holds 36,97 billion barrels of proven oil reserves as of 2018, ranking 10th in the world and accounting for about 3,1% of the world’s total oil reserves.
In early 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria determined oil production to be well below the average production before the coronavirus pandemic. According to OPEC’s latest data, issues such as vandalism, crude oil theft, and some offshore issues, including insecurity, regulations, and fines, are responsible for the decline.
The dark side of the fuel market
The impact of oil theft and smuggling are significant and wide-ranging and always result in huge economic loss, human casualties, and extreme environmental pollution.
As one might guess, the highest level of oil theft occurs in countries with large oil reserves and in countries where the complicity among government agencies and security forces with criminal enterprises is big, without proper control measures being in place. The most famous example is Nigeria and its labyrinth of the Niger Delta.
According to a report presented by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter, Nigeria lost about $8.9 million daily, which sums up to $7.2 billion over the two-year period (2016-2017), which is about 15 percent of the total number of barrels produced per day. Oil crime, in all its forms, is a significant threat not only to local and regional prosperity but also to global stability and security. The instability in the delta region is one of the factors driving the rise in global oil prices.
How does oil theft happen?
The infamous labyrinth of the Niger Delta is the perfect place for illegal activities to go undetected. Many nooks and crannies, a complex network of hidden channels, and secret connections make it possible to steal crude oil, on a large scale, in many ways. Oil is already being stolen not by tons but by tankers. An example is the Akshay tanker cruise at the end of 2012, which was stopped on the basis of the illegal export of this raw material. However, over the past ten years, the system of theft and illegal exports has changed. But, the methods and means of transporting illegal oil remain the same. Oil is exported by ships in trace amounts, transported on small vessels, or transported to ships that are traditionally considered to be ‘reputable’, and all of this is happening in the muddy regions of the Niger Delta.
How can satellite imagery reveal what’s really happening in Niger Delta?
Fuel theft in Nigeria is so systemic that it will not be stopped any time soon. However, there are some tools and solutions that might help to counter oil theft.
Using the SAR satellite technology, we are able to obtain information about the vessel’s activity and maritime changes. Tankers and small vessels conducting ‘dark operations’, can be spotted using satellite-based SAR imagery, regardless of weather conditions of time of day, and reduces the risk of illegal activities around the world.
In September 2020, SATIM analyzed vessel activity in the Niger Delta. This analysis was aimed at ship detection and recognition based on a SAR image provided by ICEYE. We have found examples of ships raising concerns about possible illegal activities. In our study, we have focused only on the water-borne objects. The research was conducted based on our AI algorithms trained for vessel detection and classification on any satellite SAR data.
As a result of the analysis,143 objects were detected and assigned into categories. 47 of them were classified as vessels. If a vessel was at least 50m long, then the classification process was performed.
Large and medium vessels were subjected to the recognition process (30 objects). Each of these vessels was labeled to one of the types (e.g Tankers, Oil Products tankers, Cargo barge). It was made on the basis of its similarity to signatures generated with our simulator.
8 Oil Products Tankers,
10 Cargo Barge,
2 Oil barge
2 Crude oil tankers.
Three vessels could not be properly recognized due to the lack of appropriate 3D models in the database. Our results were confronted with data from AIS. Only 5 of the detected vessels had an AIS signal.
SATIM use satellite-based radar imagery to support our customers with the utmost care. Now we try helping to build a great future where radar technology will provide benefits to people. We make SAR easy. If you’re interested, email us at email@example.com. We’d love to have a chat.
Shall one be required to make five phone calls and sign three documents to order SAR data?
The ongoing satellite SAR revolution is accelerating. Currently, there are over 50 SAR satellites providing radar imagery, which is more than double compared to 2018. But the data stream is not everything. We need to do more to make SAR operational and useful. It requires collaboration between SAR satellite operators and added value companies, as well as open and clear business models in order to provide real value to the end-users.
Four ICEYE’s SAR satellites flying in formation. Credit: LeoLabs
Imagine the following situation. Firstly, there is unified easy access to all civil and commercial satellite SAR data sources. Secondly, the data is interoperable across different sensors. Moreover, you can get hourly revisits over any place on Earth, latency is in minutes, and the product generation and results delivery are fully automatic. Doable? I believe that with the 4th era in SAR developments it is inevitable.
4th era in SAR data
The creation of the first SAR sensor was incentivized by the military sector when the first airborne SAR sensors were developed in the 1960s by Lockheed Martin in the US. The second era was related to big, complex, and costly scientific and military SAR satellites. Started in the 1970s, again, by Lockheed, but also by NOAA and NASA JPL. This era somehow still continues today with the Sentinel-1, ALOS-2, or TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X satellites.
But it is being slowly replaced by the third era of microsatellites. This has been started by ICEYE, in 2018, and followed by others like Capella Space, Umbra, PredaSAR, iQPS or Synspective.
The upcoming fourth era will be related to new business models for SAR data and easy-to-access, effective, and operational added-value services based on that data.
What needs to happen?
SAR data can help in many different areas. However, each of those areas requires different and deep expertise for added-value companies in order to succeed. You cannot be a “SAR” company. Instead, you need to be “a specific problem-solution” company using SAR. None of the SAR operators or downstream companies can cover all potential application areas, even if they would want to. ICEYE’s Flood Monitoring service is a great example of focused attention.
I fully agree with the words of Gabe Dominocelo, co-founder of Umbra, who said “As more sensors are launched and prices come down, we’re going to see the commercial market expand”. Lower prices are mandatory for commercial SAR-based services to find their place in the market. But it is also necessary for data providers to implement easier access to their data streams, e.g. through online APIs. Making five phone calls and signing three documents on the way shall not be necessary to order and acquire SAR data if we want to target commercial markets.
But this already starts to change
Some of the above-mentioned SAR operators change that approach by implementing both new pricing models, as well as easy access mechanisms to their space infrastructure. Hopefully, the remaining operators will follow quickly, so that the vision of the 4th era of SAR will become real. Fingers crossed and make SAR easy!
Another year of SATIM existence is passing
We will be celebrating our 10th anniversary in a moment! Time really goes fast and there’s so much going on.
Our story began in 2012 when Stasia and Jacek – two enthusiasts of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology scientists from AGH University of Science and Technology decided to create the first Polish company that uses satellite radar imaging to help make better decisions, either business- or safety-related.
In the last years, SATIM has experienced fantastic growth and development. We learned a lot and we had the opportunity to work and meet many amazing people and companies. Our strength is our people and values. Each team member is an integral part of the success in implementation of our company’s mission.
We have improved our products, defined the vision, and set our priorities and values that we want to accompany us in our daily work. We clearly set goals for action, short-term but also for the future, which allow us to focus on what is most important to us and implement our mission.
It was a long way from starting as a university spin-off, introducing the first EO-based, commercial product to the Polish market, participation in European programs, to at last (but not least) an international company, and building scalable SaaS products based on cost-effective new satellite SAR data sources. Now, we are building solutions that directly reply to our customers’ needs. We are TRANSLATOR of complex radar-based data into actionable information and make SAR easy.
We are on fire!
Our team has grown from a two-person startup into a super-team of SAR analysts and business developers. We strongly focus on the quality of our work, can-do attitude, team spirit, and self-development. Now we are working towards a great future where SAR technology will provide benefits to people throughout different market sectors.
Now it’s time to start a new era of SAR data. Everything’s working well, so…stay tuned and read our blog!