NZ Herald: Anthony Doesburg – Eyes in the skies keeping track of events below

Anthony Doesburg writes in the New Zealand Herald about how New Zealand could make far greater use of satellite images, for everything from aiding emergency response and maritime patrol, to monitoring pasture.

There are almost 1,000 satellites in orbit around the Earth, and there are plans afoot to get NZ more involved in space by setting up a near-time (rather than real-time) satellite image library.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“Venture Southland and ESA sponsored a Royal Society gathering of local and central government resource managers, emergency response planners and officials with roles in fishing, shipping and land use monitoring.

“For the idea to take hold, McNeill says, the images need to be cheap, easily accessible and available in a timely fashion – within hours, not days – particularly to be of value for disaster management. He calls it a chook problem – and there’s not one chook but two.

“Landcare Research’s Stella Belliss offers real-world examples. Clear skies after the first Canterbury quake struck provided good conditions for high-resolution satellite imaging of the disturbed landscape, she says.

“”The data arrived here within a few days of the actual earthquake and was made available to the people doing emergency response mapping.” More routinely, radar on the German TerreSAR-X satellite is being used to measure biomass, or grass growth, to help dairy farmers manage pasture use.

“”It sounds amazing but you can actually measure this with as good or better accuracy from space than by walking around in the paddock,” Belliss says.”