eleo-remote-sensing---forecasting-floods-landslides-and-insect-pest-outbreaksEquatorial low-Earth-orbit (ELEO) satellites could help forecast and monitor deadly disasters like floods and landslides. But we should also use them to manage other watershed-related events such as insect pest outbreaks. The team product should at least one of: an image-database interface, a graphical display, image processing to simulate oversampling and factor out landscape shadowing, a mobile app for data collection, or a mobile app for Earth-to-orbit messaging about the environment.
This project is solving the Forest Monitor Mapping challenge. Description
ELEO remote sensing - forecasting floods, landslides and insect pest outbreaks, with a focus on East Africa
[Draft - April 1st, 2015]
To be submitted as a theme for a team project at the 2015 International Space Apps Challenge (ISAC) in Tokyo
ISAC Challenge Category: Earth
Overlap with Earth Challenge themes (日本語翻訳のHackpadリンク)::
Forest Monitor Mapping
Clean Water Mapping
Crop Alert – Learning From the Growers
The premise of this project is that the potential of equatorial low-Earth-orbit (ELEO) remote sensing satellites is still unrealized. The use of remote sensing satellites to help forecast and monitor disasters like floods and landslides is literally of vital importance. If we are more interested in how satellites could improve people's lives in densely populated areas in the impoverished tropics, we should consider forecasting, monitoring and supporting disaster relief efforts related to insect activity as much as possible, not just floods and landslides. There is a relationship between insect pest outbreaks and the watershed disasters of floods and mudslides. A large base of satellite imagery from equatorial land areas already exists to support research on the linkages. The Apps Challenge is an opportunity to experiment with image processing, with simulated oversampling from multiple overflights, and with factoring out the effects of changes in landscape shadowing. The issues explored need not be limited to those of optical remote sensing. Among some possible projects, there are those related to image-database interfaces, to graphical display of the collected information, to image processing, to mobile apps for data collection, and mobile apps for Earth-to-orbit messaging about the environmental conditions under study.
The premise of this project is that the potential of equatorial low-Earth-orbit (ELEO) remote sensing satellites is still unrealized. Remote sensing satellites that overfly the same points very frequently (every 90 minutes or so) can be smaller. This is because oversampling can mostly compensate for the narrower sensor apertures of smaller satellites. If changes in shadowing (i.e., from the sun’s angle over terrain, and from clouds) can be normalized away, this oversampling should be effective for all but the most rapid environmental changes. Lessons can be learned by correlating the data acquired from frequent overflights by ELEO remote sensing satellites with data from similarly-intensive ground observations, and from aerial remote sensing. These lessons could then be applied to remote sensing satellites in orbits that cover more latitudes than just the equator, perhaps yielding equal value even with less frequent overflights, and with less intensive supporting observations, both from the ground and from the air.
Disasters, Fast and Slow
The use of remote sensing satellites to help forecast and monitor disasters like floods and landslides is literally of vital importance. The life-saving potential need not end with basic remote sensing. In the wake of these disasters, such satellites might also serve some emergency communications purposes. For example, if a mobile phone can be positioned at the focal point of an improvised parabolic dish pointed continuously at the satellite as it flies over, the satellite might act as a message buffer when local (terrestrial) links have failed because of damage from storms, floods or landslides. However, such disasters, while tragic, are not very frequent. You'd prefer ELEO remote-sensing satellites to be useful in other ways during normal times. Such satellites will fly over a lot of ocean, so surely there could also be oceanographic uses for all of the sensors and communications aboard. But the focus here is on the value of an Earth-to-orbit connection for larger communities living in the major land masses.
If we are more interested in how satellites could improve people's lives in densely populated areas in the impoverished tropics, consider forecasting, monitoring and supporting disaster relief efforts related to insect activity as much as possible, not just floods and landslides. Individual insects, even swarms, can't be seen at all from space, of course. However, the conditions under which they proliferate, as well as some of the (often disastrous) results of their proliferation, can be monitored to some extent with satellite remote sensing.
There is a relationship here between insect pest outbreaks and the watershed disasters of floods and mudslides. Insect pests can cause "slow-motion disasters" -- crop failures, disease outbreaks, in the same watersheds from which the floods and mudslides come. Droughts that dry up the soil around plant roots and kill soil-anchoring plants can loosen the soil on slopes. This increases landslide risk during a torrential rain, and can mean that downpours carry more mud into flooded areas. But insects can speed this process, by increasing the plant death rate. Droughts can also weaken crop plants and make them more vulnerable to insect pests, contributing to malnutrition, famine and refugee flows. Disastrous flooding in one area can carry dangerous insects (malarial mosquitoes, tsetse flies) to other areas. Climate change makes all of these problems worse. Greater variations in precipitation, to which East African peoples are especially exposed -- combined with high population growth (also a feature of East Africa) can make all of these disasters more lethal.
A large base of satellite imagery from equatorial land areas already exists. A great deal of it must overlap geographically, but with different sun angles and different cloud cover. These images can be collected from public sources. There is also a growing base of open source software for GIS and analyzing remote-sensing imagery. There is an established literature on remote sensing as it relates to estimating populations of insect pests.
The Apps Challenge is an opportunity to experiment
(1) with image processing, to simulate what a smaller satellite would "see",
(2) with simulated oversampling from multiple overflights, to better understand how the satellite's vision could be "improved",
(3) with factoring out the effects of changes in landscape shadowing, in the course of the day as the sun’s angle changes, and as clouds pass over, to see how much can be learned about determining the conditions of soil and of insect breeding under different climatic conditions.
The issues explored need not be limited to those of optical remote sensing. There is also the "side view": GPS/GNSS radio signal occultation can provide near-real-time readings of precipitation over areas, before after passing over them. There is also the view from outside the visible spectrum: ground-penetrating radar can inform the model with estimates of the moisture content of soils and forest canopies.
The groundwork to be laid in the time between now (April 1st) and the Apps Challenge weekend should consist of identifying public domain data sets, open source software suites, and relevant experts to consult, and arriving at the definition of a project whose difficulty seems just right for completing something useful in a weekend. The desired result might relatively modest.
Among some possible projects (the team will need to choose):
(1) Distributed heterogeneous image database specialized for this theme.
(2) Graphics-intensive demo using mostly-mocked data.
(3) Implementing some of the image processing that would be required.
(4) An East-Africa-friendly mobile app for collecting data about landslides, floods, insect pests.
(5) An East-Africa-friendly mobile app to be used with an improvised parabolic dish for tracking an ELEO satellite and beaming messages to it -- during normal times, sending collected data about watershed terrain and insect pests, and, in the wake of disasters, messages of potential life-saving value for refugees.
Rick Fleeter (Brown University/Sapienza University) and Mazlan Othman (formerly Mahathir's space advisor, then UNOOSA) are both veterans of several proposals for equatorial remote sensing satellites.
Duccio Rocchini, lead on some open source terrain reconstruction projects - http://gis.cri.fmach.it/rocchini/
Icipe, a Kenyan entomology research organization - http://www.icipe.org/ - East Africa is very prone to floods, mudslides, and insect-borne/water-borne diseases (chiefly malaria).
Orekit (for orbital dynamics -- used by ESA, and the 2014 Tokyo Apps Challenge project, Sprite Orbits)
Rugged (Orekit's new terrain toolkit)
License: Apache License 2.0 (Apache-2.0)
Source Code/Project URL: https://github.com/ProjectPersephone/Moombi
Duccio Rocchini - researcher in open source satellite imagery software - http://gis.cri.fmach.it/rocchini/
Rugged - Orekit's terrain mapping toolkit - https://www.orekit.org/rugged/
Icipe - Kenyan entomology research institute - http://www.icipe.org/