Being able to observe our planet from space always was one of the main motivations for building satellites

Today this ability is of crucial importance for a multitude of applications. Some of these applications are part of our everyday life such as e.g. weather forecasts. But there are several other ways in which society can benefit from earth observation data.

Remote sensing data has revolutionized infrastructure and city planning activities and as a consequence enhanced the quality of life in urban areas. Different scientific domains such as biology or geology, but also maritime sciences and even archeology are steadily brought forward by new data from space.
Small satellites and especially CubeSats allow for implementation of cost-effective systems and for the deployment of affordable satellite constellations.

The main advantage of SmallSat constellations is the quick revisit which allows to detect changes with better temporal resolution. Multiple datasets of the same region daily can enhance our understanding of climate change and its ramifications. But they can also be used to monitor and analyze retail traffic in shopping malls. In contrary classic satellites, whose highest quality data and imagery is updated very rarely, CubeSat constellations can deliver comparable geometrical and significantly improved temporal resolutions for any object anywhere on the globe. This enables new types of users to leverage their applications by using EO data.

There is a multitude of possible applications for CubeSat based Earth Observation

Atmospheric and Maritime Science

Nothing influences the wellbeing and the future of mankind more than the condition of our atmosphere and of our oceans. Researchers and scientists in both fields can benefit from CubeSats and their data.
Key requirement for climate research is reliable and frequently updated data on the composition of the atmosphere. CubeSats can be used to collect atmospheric profile data by using novel techniques such as GNSS radio-occultation or other methods.

A similar technique, GNSS reflectometry, can also be used to create elevation maps and to monitor the water level and its changes due to tectonic and gravitational effects to enhance the understanding of our oceans. Another method, the ocean color imagery, can be used to determine the amount of dissolved organic material in the water – which is one of the most important parameters for understanding how life develops underneath the surface.

Infrastructure and Metropolitan Management

Today’s cities are dependent on reliable data on their growth, the resource use, the condition of the environment, the development of the population, the condition of the infrastructure and more. The more sustainable a city becomes the more important precise and detailed data becomes for the planning processes. Each smart city of the future will rely on frequently updated satellite imagery to address phenomena like urban heat islands or to fight air pollution.

Satellite imagery will also be used to analyze the condition of important infrastructure and to schedule predictive maintenance – by doing so reducing the overall maintenance costs.

Catastrophe and Risk Management

After natural disasters and catastrophic events, actionable data about infrastructure, environment and geological changes in a region is vital. In this context CubeSat data complements existing disaster monitoring satellites. Novel technologies, such as uncooled microbolometer based imagers, allow to use CubeSats for new applications, such as wildfire detection and monitoring. Assessment of damages after floods and quick coordination of help in regions affected by earthquakes or landslides are some of the areas, where CubeSats will contribute to a safer world. Typical customers for these data products are governments, insurance and re-insurance companies.

Agricultural and Resource Planning

Already today most agricultural businesses of the developed world rely on satellite data to maximize their yields while improving efficiency and sustainability. EO data is used to predict the right timing for bringing out the seeds, for fertilizing and watering. Water stress of plants can be determined, and the overall amount of used water can be reduced by watering where needed and when needed only.
But also, other industries can benefit from CubeSat based EOS data at hand. From forest health tracking to resource prospecting, the applications are endless. CubeSats already disrupted the EO data market once, but the technology is capable to disrupt it several more times.

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