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Focal Point: Remote Sensing ...
... The Revolution That’s Coming

Almost everyone has seen the television news casts and Internet reports featuring meteorological images that illustrate the weather forecast. These reports have an immediate impact on our daily lives and it is something that we have all grown accustomed to.

The use of satellite images for weather forecasting is among the most popular applications from Earth Observing (EO) satellites. However, this is not the only remote sensing application that can be obtained from images and information coming out of the increasing number of remote sensing satellites orbiting the Earth with an impressive array of sophisticated cameras and sensors.

On top of the obvious military applications for monitoring and intelligence gathering, technological advances and the consistent support for remote sensing missions from Space agencies worldwide have contributed to the advancement of scientific knowledge of our own planet. The information received from these satellites has also fostered the design and development of new applications that address two of the main concerns of our society environment sustainability and security.

Nowadays, the images obtained by remote sensing satellites are received through sophisticated ground systems that provide valuable information for governments and public agencies. This information has proven very useful in a wide range of areas such as humanitarian crisis management, human-caused or natural disaster monitoring, maritime traffic surveillance, urban development planning, land use management, crop yield monitoring, biodiversity control, border and illegal trafficking surveillance and many other areas including health- and climate-related issues.

Several space agencies across the globe are aware of the valuable information space remote sensing systems can provide and, as a result, are investing in the development and operations of these systems. This trend is accelerating across the globe with the launch of new satellites and the incorporation of new countries that are eager to possess national remote sensing systems. A reduced number of commercial remote sensing satellite operators that provide images with increasing resolution along with a growing number of value-adding companies are combining to produce useful information and intelligence for end users.

Together with a number of other space areas in which GMV is an active player, remote sensing is an area of growth for the Company. GMV has been involved in all phases of a remote sensing mission, from preliminary feasibility and mission analysis studies to system design and development, integration, and operations support and maintenance. The Company also regularly provides processed images, information systems and services to end users to address their specific needs.

GMV’s systems are present in different remote sensing missions for various agencies, including ESA (ERS, Envisat, SMOS, Swarm, GOCE), NASA (OCO, Glory) and CNES (Helios I and Helios II).

GMV’s contribution to the flight segment encompasses the development of on-board software for satellite instruments and the development of instrument processor prototypes and in-orbit verification facilities. GMV is also very active in the GNC/AOCS field providing studies and simulators and contributing to the development of advanced navigation sensors.

Additionally, GMV provides several systems for satellite flight operations:
  • Mission control systems for real-time satellite control and command as well as housekeeping and payload telemetry monitoring and archiving
  • Fight dynamics systems, for satellite orbit and attitude management, through orbit determination and maneuver planning and preparation
  • Mission planning systems, to receive user requests and manage and allocate satellite resources
  • Satellite simulators
1986, GMV has developed precise orbit determination (POD) systems and algorithms for projects such as the Navigation Package for Earth Orbiting Satellites (NAPEOS) for ESA, which is used for its ERS and Envisat missions. POD is also used to process navigation signals, an area where GMV plays a key role in EGNOS and Galileo.

Payload ground segment systems are extremely important in the processing of large amounts of raw images and data coming from sensors aboard remote sensing satellites. Through different levels of processing, from level 0 to level 4, data is received, corrections are applied to take into account the effects of the atmosphere and the characteristics of the sensor, algorithms are applied to obtain biophysical measurements, and orthorectification is applied. Even more elaborate products can be obtained through level 4 processing, whose output is more easily used to supply critically needed information.

Beyond these systems, there is an area of great development potential, and that is the end-user segment. Users from various sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, security, or defense, to name just a few, can benefit greatly from services and applications developed on a level above the remote sensing data itself. These applications and services may also integrate data coming from in-situ sensors or other space applications, such as satellite navigation and satellite communications. The information received from these different sources and its integration into geographical information systems, decision support systems and the like, are key to address end user needs and to foster the development of a huge application market.

But we are still not quite there — market creation initiatives must continue to involve the end users and the value-adding companies in the development of prototypes and demonstration systems to maximize these technologies and make the information more widely usable.

GMV is taking a lead in this market through in-house expertise and technology in all three building blocks: remote sensing, GNSS, and telecommunications. Currently, GMV is involved in a number of projects through the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security program, which calls for the development of such services and applications. In particular, GMV is involved in projects that address ground infrastructure risk management, maritime security, forest monitoring, humanitarian aid response, atmospheric monitoring, land and sea integrated monitoring, and many others.

GMV looks ahead with optimism as the Company is convinced that remote sensing technologies constitute a firm promise for tremendous growth. The application of these technologies do have a direct benefit for our society and offer the promise of a better future for new generations.