Eyes in the sky aim to protect Earth’s rainforests, resources
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 15, (AFP): In the Brazilian state of Para, every week, authorities receive alerts showing them which parts of the Amazon forest have been chopped down, with photos to back it up.
The pictures are taken every day at 10:30 in the morning by American satellites, offering a detailed view of every three to five meters on the ground.
An algorithm helps reveal automatically where logging has taken place.
The authorities send agents to investigate and potentially apprehend the suspects before they do any more damage.
“It used to take six days, sometimes two or three months without images,” said Iara Musse Felix, CEO of SCCON, the company which distributes the alerts. “Now we have daily images.” This revolution in forest surveillance, and the Earth in general, comes from a constellation of satellites run by a company called Planet.
Founded in San Francisco in 2010 by three former NASA scientists, Planet is a leader in small satellites, which are easier to produce and replace, and tend to have mission lives of between three and five years.
This economic model is vastly at odds with the traditional aerospace industry, which builds large, sophisticated satellites that are far more powerful but take hundreds of millions of dollars to build.
Planet has placed 298 satellites in orbit since 2013, and half of those were launched last year.