Australia Ready for the Shift in Earth Observation Industry

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Earth observation (EO) is seeing a major shift from imagery to insights showing greater opportunity for downstream Information Products and Big Data analytics than for sale of data. NSR’s Satellite-Based Earth Observation (EO) report, projects EO satellite data and services will represent a US$54 billion cumulative opportunity over the next ten years, growing to US$6.9 billion annually in 2027. In general, EO satellites find applications in agriculture, weather prediction, environment monitoring, and mining industries, among others.

To answer this question of how Australia is preparing for the next EO revolution, Satellite Now Australia spoke exclusively with Dr Graeme Kernich, CEO of FrontierSI. Over 16 years, FrontierSI (previously the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information) has played a crucial role in linking Government, Defense, Industry, Universities and Consumers. FrontierSI is a not-for-profit and has helped create collaborative and innovative research projects which advance the use of technology related to geodesy, positioning, EO and spatial data infrastructures. FrontierSI has built a collaborative network model to drive business growth both in Australia and New Zealand.

“EO is playing an important role on the SDG mission at a country level. So, there is a lot of use of EO technology to meet policy objectives for SDG reporting”

Dr Kernich shared his views on the important role of EO in the economic development of Australia and fulfilling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) he said, “EO is playing an important role on the SDG mission at a country level. So, there is a lot of use of EO technology to meet policy objectives for SDG reporting. Collectively we’re seeing the world think through how countries work together to address those goals as well.” He further added,” The core objective is to understand how the EO data can help make a difference into people’s lives. It’s also important for the decision makers to understand why they are investing in this and why they need to continue investing in the future. Therefore, I see something starting to converge in this community which is actually tied to the SDG discussion.”

Recent years have seen huge growth towards more commercial use of EO data, various platforms and portals have been developed to enable the use of EO data in a more consumable way. Several startups have emerged in this domain and FrontierSI is providing the platform by connecting them to industry, government and defense. With various verticals falling under EO, according to Dr. Kernich, their focus is on agriculture across the cropping and gazing industries where it is important to understand the field and its natural resources. By introducing various new technologies such as 3D modeling, feature classifications and change detection, a definite impact can be made.

”We’re seeing huge volumes of data and automation will greatly help with the ability to make informed, timely decisions”

In the long run, FrontierSI believes satellite technology advances will vastly improve decisions. Dr. Kernich said, “We’ll see several EO instruments in the sky with better and more rapid data provision, production analysis ready data on-board satellite versus bringing it down in a raw form and then processing it for use. There will be more intelligent satellite systems with higher temporal resolution working together. This will allow us to use the higher amount of data to produce much improved outcomes. It’s going to be about how you use high temporal resolution satellite for change detection to make better decisions.” Another focus has been on automated workflows and understanding how to take the EO data combined with other data sets and use that in an automated machine learning context to drive out information products. Dr. Kernich added,” We’re seeing huge volumes of data and automation will greatly help with the ability to make informed, timely decisions.” With Australian government support in the space sector and the global growth in EO there is a great opportunity for Australian companies to grow their businesses on an international scale.

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