Aerospace remote sensing, a tool for decision-makers
From a vantage point 36,000 km above the equator, geostationary observatory satellites have their lenses continuously trained on the same section of the Earth. Closer to the ground, at an altitude of between 500 and 800 km, polar satellites scan our planet in successive bands until they have covered the entire Earth. Just a few kilometres above our heads, aeroplanes patrol the landscape and even closer than that, we have drones detecting the tiniest details of our plots of land.
All of these platforms are equipped with sophisticated instruments that are considerably more powerful than our eyes. They are capable of detecting the radiation emitted by the Earth's surface or reflected in a wide range of wavelengths (visible light, infrared light, microwave radiation, etc.). Based on the spectral response that is acquired in this way, we can obtain information about a constantly growing number of parameters that are useful for climate studies. If we enter this information into Geographical Information Systems, it results in maps that are indispensable tools for assessment and warnings in numerous fields: agriculture, atmospheric chemistry, epidemiology, forestry, risk management, hydrology, meteorology, oceanography, urban planning, etc.
STEREO, the National Research Programme for Earth Observation of the Federal Science Policy Office is funding research projects in remote sensing. The scientific teams are exploring the possibilities for extracting valuable information for decision-making from satellite or aerial materials. This movie illustrates a number of the topics that are covered by the programme: volcanic hazard management in the area of Goma, biotope mapping for Natura 2000 sites, assessment of the water quality in estuaries, automatic update of built-up areas in Belgium and sub-Saharan Africa, monitoring vegetation on a global scale, the probable presence of disease vectors, monitoring the expansion of areas in Brussels that are impervious to water, monitoring crop growth and yield forecasting, and estimating the extent to which the population is exposed to atmospheric pollutants.
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