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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Airbus Defence and Space and Orbital Insight Expand Partnership Agreement to create Earth Monitor

May 30th, 2019 by Susan Smith

In an interview with Arnaud de Saint Vincent, Analytics Strategy – Digital Services Intelligence Communications, Intelligence, Security of the Defence and Space intelligence branch of Airbus, he spoke about one of their digital services, Earth Monitor, under the umbrella of their OneAtlas platform. Airbus Defence and Space and Orbital Insight have expanded upon their partnership agreement to create Earth Monitor, a powerful change analysis and insights service which provides situational awareness over archived or newly tasked areas of interest.

“Our core business is to deliver satellite imagery and information derived from the  imagery to our customers,” said de Saint Vincent. “We have undertaken, an initiative called OneAtlas that aims to go in the cloud and deliver our data and information services in a much more digital way. Within that initiative, I’m in charge of analytics that is the part responsible for extracting information automatically and digitally in order to deliver insights to our customers.”

This advanced service brings together Airbus’ reactive tasking capabilities and premium archive imagery from the Living Library to offer access to advanced statistical analyses, trends and detection maps.

Earth Monitor is dedicated to providing Airbus customers with a simple solution to extract insights information from their imagery with particular focus on monetary changes on territories of interest across time. There are many application and business intelligence domains included. Earth Monitor allows customers to define their area of interest and to create an analysis by which they will specify which kind of change they’re interested in.

Orbital Insight brings to the table machine learning and computer vision expertise through powerful algorithms that detect changes in infrastructure and land use in near real-time, as well as identify and count cars, trucks and soon, aircraft. “For instance, you might want to monitor the level of activity of a vehicular site. By just counting the number of cars that are around this site, is one criteria for change. Another criteria could be I’m interested in detecting new constructions or new roads. So, there are different kinds of change criteria that can be of interest to the user. He has the opportunity to describe that in the web platform to run that in analysis over a given time period and then to get out of it a report that will tell him the number of cars as a function of time, as perceived through satellite imagery.”

A few examples of applications for Earth Monitor include: Business intelligence customers are already interested. The number of vehicles is a clear sign indicator of activity of a site. Information that is relevant to different industries or domains is key. Another example is defence and security. It’s possible to use Earth Monitor to monitor activity around border areas, to support the detection of illegal border crossing activity. Another application is in the domain of urban management.

“There are areas where you cannot construct new buildings, for instance, coastal areas are protected in many countries or some areas are forbidden as they are subjected to various hazards,” said de Saint Vincent, “and so by using Earth Monitor to monitor such areas, it’s possible to automatically get information about new construction.”

OneAtlas digital platform was launched last year, and provides several services. The first pillar of One Atlas is to delivery Airbus’ satellite imagery online to their customers. “Nearly all our imagery that is collected daily by our SPOT and Pléiades is put on our cloud  and is made available to our customers for instant access,” de Saint Vincent said. “This is a drastic change compared to previous distribution models where the user had to specify his area of interest,  send us his request and we would produce the image based on that request, and deliver after some time. Here the image is produced in advance and is immediately available.”

OneAtlas provides all the imagery instantly available on the cloud, and on top of that Earth Monitor is providing earth information services on top of the imagery.

Orbital Insight is one of the leading companies in the field of analytics with well recognized competence. It was a natural move for both Orbital Insight and Airbus to create a partnership as Airbus is a European leader for satellite imagery and distribution. The partnership takes advantage of satellite imagery from Earth Monitor and Orbital Insights’ analytics capabilities.

All set up is done through an online web portal so customers don’t need to have their GIS specialist to have at least the first level of information. Through the portal, upon each date at which an image has been available and processed, customers will get both a map of the information that has been detected in the image, and also, they will have the temporal measurement. For instance, what is the number of trucks that has been counted on the site, or what are the changes of the surfaces that have been detected, between dates across time?

Through the web portal they have access to all the information but if they wish, they can export that data, because they may need to do further processing in their own GIS system. They can export the data we produced into standard vector files and further process them in their GIS.

Within Earth Monitor are several algorithms to detect several different kinds of changes. Most of the algorithms are coming from Orbital Insight, some of them are proprietary.  They are also used by Orbital Insight themselves to deliver services on their own. It’s not exclusive. There is a commercial agreement between the two companies. Orbital Insight gets a fair distribution when Airbus sells services.

Orbital Insight also deliver geoinformation services on their own, and has been a data customer of Airbus for some time. They procure satellite imagery from multiple sources.

“We are consistent with OGC standards, we provide WMS streaming links to view our imagery within any other system such as GIS,” said de Saint Vincent.  “It’s possible for the customer to download the image, so our image can be either viewed in streaming or downloaded in a specific format. Some of our customers need to have the pixels on their site for the processing. We also provide multiple APIs allowing multiple ways of accessing our imagery.”

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Categories: 3D Cities, Airbus Defense and Space, analytics, asset management, climate change, cloud, data, developers, disaster relief, field GIS, geospatial, GIS, image-delivery software, integrated GIS solutions, location based sensor fusion, location based services, location intelligence, mapping, photogrammetry, satellite based tracking, satellite imagery, sensors, survey

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