RapidEye Satellite Constellation Takes a Look at a Wide Area
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RapidEye Satellite Constellation Takes a Look at a Wide Area

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Industry News
RapidEye Satellite Constellation Takes a Look at a Wide Area

By Susan Smith

RapidEye, founded in 1998 in Munich, is a geospatial solutions provider that also owns their own satellites. Their first satellite constellation, comprised of five earth observation satellites, was launched in October 2008. The company just announced their system has successfully completed all post-launch testing and calibration activities, and will now be ready to take on commercial operations.

Agricultural area near Sao Paulo (Brazil), acquired by CHOROS (RapidEye 4) on Nov 11 2008
Agricultural area near Sao Paulo (Brazil), acquired by CHOROS (RapidEye 4) on Nov 11 2008

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) of Vancouver, RapidEye’s prime contractor, has conducted the commissioning period for both the space and ground segment in which they thoroughly measured, analyzed and verified system performance and product quality, according to company literature.

In an interview with GISWeekly, Michael Oxfort, Head of operations and engineering for RapidEye, said there are over 100 people working for RapidEye, dispersed across 17 or 18 nations.

GISWeekly: Does RapidEye also provide geospatial solutions with satellite data?

Michael Oxfort: Our core competencies include providing services to our customers. We try to come up with very tailored solutions for our customers, and for the customers it’s very important for them to get their information in a very specific way so it can be used in their workflow. It could be that we’re providing information in a form that can be used in a GIS, but also there could be other forms. On our service side, we’re going for a very customized solution, on the data side, we also provide satellite imagery. Many of our customers are interested in satellite information but only if it is presented in a tailored way. For example, it could be just one GIS layer of available information, which a customer uses only in his system and then can make his own assessments with the new information

Estuary of Aconcagua river near the Chilean city Concon, acquired by CHOMA (RapidEye 5) on Nov 9 2008
Estuary of Aconcagua river near the Chilean city Concon, acquired by CHOMA (RapidEye 5) on Nov 9 2008

GW: What is the relationship with MDA, the general contractor, now that the constellation has launched?

MO: Since January we are in charge of operating the system and since then we are receiving data from the satellites, which we are processing to these various image levels, then we make them available in our archives.

GW: Can you explain your work for the EMBRAPA - Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation?

MO: Brazil and South America as a whole are very interesting because it’s summertime there, and in the southern hemisphere, from agricultural point of view, much more interesting than in Europe or Germany – here it’s snowing. That’s why we are focusing on the Brazilian area because their growing season is happening now. There is a pilot project running for which we are showing our customers the quality of our data and services. With real live data, we are now in a much better position to also show the customer the abilities of the regular system. At this point, we are evaluating the data, and also trying to assess if all the information extractions work. The data is related to agrometeorologic risk management and monitoring the environmental dimensions of the sustainability in tropical agriculture.

GW: How would you compare RapidEye with other commercial satellites such as GeoEye and DigitalGlobe?

MO: We have different characteristics. DigitalGlobe and GeoEye have systems in space with very high resolution, 1 meter or below, and we don’t have this. We decided to go for a lower resolution of 6 ½ meters so that we are able to cover large areas. So if you compare DigitalGlobe or GeoEye, they have one image at a couple of 100 square kilometres whereas when we make a shot we have a couple of 10,000 square kilometers. So due to the difference in the resolution, we have the ability to collect much more area. The primary purpose for our system is to monitor a larger area on a repetitive basis, so therefore our goal is to collect as many square kilometers as possible in one go. Due to the fact that we’re also restricting ourselves to certain applications, the 6 ½ meters is sufficient for our purposes. We don’t necessarily want to see someone standing on the tennis court and ready for serving, but we want to be able to cover large agricultural fields.

GW: Are many of your customers agricultural customers?

MO: Yes, our customers are interested in getting an overview of the dynamic of the growing season, and of course, there is a growing area that is quite large. To get an overview, you need a system that is able to monitor this a couple of times over the growing season which is what our system has been designed to do. Customers include everyone who has something to do with agriculture. Others who have an interest in RapidEye include insurance companies who want to evaluate certain things after specific weather events, or food producers or also even large farmers with an interest in seeing what’s happening on their fields. In Germany, where we have small fields, the farmer has the ability to walk in the evening and know exactly what is happening on his fields, but you can’t do this in the U.S. anymore because the fields are so vast. For that use purpose our system is ideal, because they can have a quick overview of what’s happening. You can make an assessment of what the fields looked like a month ago, today and you can get a feeling of dynamic process. In a case where a weather event has created a lot of damage, customers might want to see the extent of damage, or the impact on the harvest or on roads and bridges, etc.

GW: Where are most of your customers located?

Customers are worldwide. We’re preparing ourselves for the growing season here in the northern hemisphere while now we’re doing a lot of work in the southern hemisphere.

The key for our system in Brandenburg is to work with larger customers who then have long term contracts. There is also an interest for smaller companies or even individuals to access our data, so therefore, RapidEye is in the process of working on an electronic e-commerce platform (the RapidEye Kiosk) which would allow smaller customers to gain access to our data. We’re starting to fill our library, as we image areas. We need to get a stock of imagery so we can provide this to our customers.

According to company literature, in addition, the company is assembling a worldwide network of distributors to make it easy for customers to access RapidEye's products in their own language and region. These partnerships should be completed later this year.

Top News of the Week

The economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law last week by President Obama includes more than $73 billion in programs that will require geospatial data, technology, services and applications in at least 24 Federal agencies, according to an analysis by MAPPS, the association of geospatial firms.

H.R. 1, the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009," became Public Law 111-5 with President Barack Obama's signature on Tuesday, February 17.

Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

IceWEB, Inc., a provider of GIS storage servers and appliances, has entered into a strategic marketing agreement with EmerGeo Solutions, Inc. With offices in the USA, Canada, Australia and the Middle East, EmerGeo will market its CIMS (Crisis Incident Management Software) on pre-configured INLINE MLP portable storage servers throughout the world.

Intermap Technologies announced a partnership with PCI Geomatics, a developer of hardware/software systems for geo-imaging solutions, to offer the Company’s uniformly accurate digital elevation models, orthorectified radar images, contour line maps, and optimized triangulated irregular network (TIN) models worldwide.

TerraGo Technologies has signed a Mapping and Geographic Information System (GIS) business partner agreement with Trimble. The two organizations will work closely together to develop technology and business opportunities across common customers in the government, engineering, utilities and transportation markets for mobile geospatial applications.


The Board of Directors of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) has chartered a committee of the Board to specifically address the “spatial law and policy issues” which will influence development requirements of the Consortium’s technology process. The Spatial Law and Policy Committee (SLPC) will be chaired by OGC director and Executive Committee member, Kevin Pomfret, and will be organized under board leadership as an educational forum to include both select member and community participation.

DigitalGlobe, a provider of high-resolution world imagery solutions, announced that the WorldView-2 remote sensing instrument, provided by ITT Corporation’s Space Systems Division, has been integrated by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. into the WorldView-2 spacecraft and system-level testing has commenced. The third in DigitalGlobe’s constellation of commercial remote sensing satellites, WorldView-2’s advanced agility and high orbit will expand DigitalGlobe’s image collection capabilities to nearly two million square kilometers per day, and enable faster collection of the world’s geography with multiple daily revisits to a single location. WorldView-2 will collect an unmatched eight bands of multi-spectral imagery at 1.8 meter resolution for the truest depiction of the earth’s natural color, in addition to collecting 46-centimeter resolution panchromatic imagery. It is scheduled to launch in the third quarter of 2009.

Pictometry International Corp., a provider of geo-referenced aerial image libraries whose patented and proprietary technology is used globally to capture oblique imagery, has extended and expanded its international technology license with Blom ASA of Oslo, Norway through 2018. The agreement broadens the companies’ international reach (which currently includes 43 countries in Western Europe) into markets throughout Eastern Europe.

The Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) has awarded the INSPIRE@EC contract to a consortium that based its solution on ESRI technology. This contract covers the development of the technical components of a European Commission spatial data infrastructure (SDI) compliant with the provisions of the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE).

Bentley Systems, Incorporated launched its Be Employable initiative to help in sustaining the infrastructure professions. Be Employable is an innovative addition to Bentley’s Be Careers Network designed to help outplaced architectural, engineering, construction, and geospatial professionals update and upgrade their technology skill sets, giving them a significant competitive edge in today’s challenging job market.


Mapping California Communities will be the focus of beginner-level workshops offered throughout March in several California cities to teach the fundamentals of using GIS and Census data for community analysis. Presented by New Urban Research Inc. the workshop is designed for social service providers, academic researchers, urban planners and anyone who performs community demographic analysis for governmental or private organizations.
Each workshop is one day and costs $495 per person. No previous GIS experience is necessary. Information and registration are available at New Urban Research.

ERDAS announces Automate Your Imagery Registration, a free webinar on March 3, 2009 at 11 a.m. (EST). Whether you are dealing with new imagery that doesn't line up with your existing or you need to rapidly orthorectify your data, this webinar illustrates how to solve these problems, saving you time and making your workflow more efficient. IMAGINE AutoSync, an add-on to ERDAS IMAGINE, takes two (or more) images of potentially dissimilar types, such as IKONOS and SPOT5 or air photos and QuickBird, and automatically generates thousands of points to tie them together with high accuracy.

To register for Automate Your Imagery Registration, or find out more about other upcoming webinars, please visit: ERDAS website


Garmin Ltd. announced fourth quarter results for the period ended December 27, 2008. Garmin has moved the earnings call to Monday, February 23, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Details regarding the call and webcast are available under the heading “Earnings Call Information.” See press release

New Products

The ArcGIS for AutoCAD free download by ESRI has radically improved the ease with which users can share and use geographic information system (GIS) content with AutoCAD files while preserving existing CAD workflows. ArcGIS for AutoCAD Build 200, which was released , offers simple interoperability; it gives AutoCAD users access to enterprise GIS data and imagery published by ArcGIS Server within the AutoCAD environment. It also gives them a means to prepare data with AutoCAD for use in ArcGIS.

ArcGIS for AutoCAD is compatible with AutoCAD 2007, 2008, and 2009 and ArcGIS Server map services 9.2 and above. To download this free application and to learn more, visit the website.

PCI Geomatics announced the availability of Geomatica 10.2, the latest version of its image-centric desktop software, emphasizing automation and productivity for turning spatial data into information.

Blue Marble Geographics
has released an update to their flagship developer toolkit, GeoCalc, the world's most comprehensive coordinate conversion engine. Found under the hood of the popular Geographic Calculator and other industry standard seismic analysis solutions, GeoCalc supports over 12,000 coordinate system transformations, along with pre-defined linear and angular units, ellipsoids, geodetic datums and coordinate systems. Blue Marble’s coordinate conversion technology is used worldwide by thousands of GIS analysts at software companies, universities, oil and gas companies, civil engineering, surveying, technology, enterprise GIS groups, government and military organizations.

Mercator Suite 7, the new version of STAR-APIC’s cartographic production software, will be shown for the first time to the wide public on the STAR-APIC stand at the IMTA (EAME) Trade Show & Conference in Belfast (Northern Ireland) on 20 and 21 February.

Suite 7 constitutes a major release of Mercator with as highlight the adoption of PDF as the core graphic format, which will provide an even more straightforward link with the general graphic industry than its predecessor (native GRS). This will result in a still higher throughput speed for map products, while giving the same guarantee of consistency for which Mercator is so well-known.

Continuing to offer the largest selection of GIS tools in one place, CMC International is now helping companies to make geocoding easier and less expensive with Address Coder 9.3.

Marketers, direct-mail managers, and any organization that must manage large U.S. address lists can use ESRI's new Address Coder to segment and target addresses with latitude-longitudes, Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) codes, demographic data, and ESRI's Optional Tapestry Segmentation codes.

MapQuest announced the addition of My Places to MapQuest 4 Mobile, MapQuest’s free, downloadable application. My Places lets registered MapQuest users save maps and routes to their profile from the MapQuest site and access them via MapQuest.com, or their mobile phone. My Places on MapQuest 4 Mobile is currently available on select BlackBerry smartphones, with additional handsets and major mobile platforms coming in the months ahead.

GeoSentric Oyj’s GyPSii business unit announced the launch of the GyPSii OpenExperience API (OEx), the premier all-inclusive platform for incorporating location-based social networking functionality into embedded mobile clients and applications. The company will be demonstrating select services of OEx on the soon to be released GyPSii native application support for the iPhone.

The new Leica XPro line sensor workflow software is straightforward to implement and easy to use for those familiar with traditional analog frame processing. Ground processing with Leica XPro covers the entire line sensor workflow - from data download to image generation.

This product has been developed jointly by Leica Geosystems and North West Geomatics Ltd., Calgary (Canada), to further enhance the workflow for digital line sensors, such as the Leica ADS80. The software provides the most complete and advanced ground processing workflow from data download to image generation. Existing Leica ADS40 customers will be able to easily migrate their production environment to the new workflow.

Future-proof GNSS ensures maximum productivity and reliability, today and tomorrow. Four independent Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) will be operational within the near future. With the new Leica GPS1200+ users can be certain that they are ready to get ahead of their competition. A four constellation GNSS will soon become reality delivering a new dimension in GNSS performance and efficiency.

DMTI Spatial (DMTI) has introduced the fifth of its six innovative Location Content Cartridges (LCC) designed to address specific vertical industry business needs. The Exploration & Mapping LCC is a comprehensive solution providing next generation content designed to address the unique complexities oil and gas and mining organizations face surrounding optimum site selection, regulatory compliance and risk management. This new content, including detailed geospatial culture data, will enable clients to drive workflow efficiencies, optimize survey costs and improve ROI.

OxTS’s RT3002 and Riegl’s Q120 scanner are perfect for cost effective mobile mapping applications. Mobile mapping, where a 2D LIDAR is fitted to a vehicle, is a very efficient method of surveying. An inertial and GPS navigation system, like the RT3002, is an essential part of a mobile mapping system.

Centigon Solutions Inc., an SAP software solution partner in the SAP PartnerEdge program and leading developer of add-ons for Xcelsius software, launched GMaps Plugin for use with Xcelsius 2008, allowing developers to easily integrate Google Maps into business intelligence dashboards with point-and-click simplicity. Bridging the gap between best-of-breed mapping and enterprise dashboard solutions, GMaps Plugin empowers designers to drag and drop a Google Map directly into a dashboard to enable interactive analysis of geographical data.

NAVTEQ, a global provider of digital map data for vehicle navigation and location-based solutions, has announced release of navigable map coverage in Chile and Venezuela, providing automotive-grade quality content to portable and mobile devices. The initial NAVTEQ map for Chile includes over 57,000 km of road network and the NAVTEQ map for Venezuela includes over 86,000 km. To deliver NAVTEQ's industry leading quality, both maps include up to 260 attributes per stretch of road. These road attributes include information such as direction of travel, road barriers, and turn restrictions; and, are critical for supporting accurate turn-by-turn guidance in high performance navigation systems and portable devices.

IDV Solutions announced the integration of their Visual Fusion software platform with the Microsoft Virtual Earth Server offered by Vexcel, Microsoft’s geospatial subsidiary. Through this integration, IDV Solutions now offers on-premise advanced geospatial visualization solutions for enterprise and government organizations with the full power of Virtual Earth but without reliance on an internet connection.

Around the Web

Eyes in the Sky by Eric Johnson, Feb. 25, 2009, Metro Spirit

Chicago Links Street Cameras to Its 911 Network by Karen Ann Cullotta, February 20, 2009, The New York Times (registration required)

GIS technology improves decision making, Feb. 25, 2009, Australian Mining



Coastal GeoTools
Date: March 2 - 5, 2009
Place: Myrtle Beach

Coastal GeoTools is the conference series that focuses on the technical information needs of the nation's coastal programs. The theme for 2009 is "Building the Digital Coast", a new initiative that provides easy access to organized and relevant data, tools, and technical training.

Automate Your Imagery Registration
Date: March 3, 2009
Place: USA

Dealing with new imagery that doesn't line up with your existing? Need to rapidly orthorectify data? This webinar will illustrate how to easily solve these problems, saving you time and making your workflow more efficient.

AutoCAD Civil 3D and Roadway Design – Transportation for a New Age
Date: March 6 - April 3, 2009
Place: Avatech Office

Come to your local Avatech office to explore the Autodesk solutions for transportation.

ASPRS 2009 Annual Conference
Date: March 9 - 13, 2009

ASPRS proudly celebrates its 75th Anniversary throughout 2009, with special events taking place at the 2009 Annual Conference in Baltimore.

GEOFORM+2009 The 6th International Industrial Forum
Date: March 10 - 13, 2009
Place: Crocus Expo Exhibition Centre
Moscow, Russia

The 6th International industrial Forum of geodesy, cartography, navigation, geoinformation systems, engineering geology and geophysics, tunnel and utility systems construction.

PROGIS International Conference 2009,
Date: March 11 - 12, 2009
Place: Grand Media Congress Hotel Villach
Villach, Austria

The topic of this conference is the request for concerted activities to ensure that agriculture will be able to feed worldwide the ongoing growing population.Climate change, the reduction of natural resources, a stronger demand for bioenergy, urbanization and environmental protection, are additional mega-trends that have to be considered. Hence, globally there is a strong demand for technologies and practical instruments for improving the planning, development and management of agriculture.

12th Annual AAAE GIS Conference & Exhibition
Date: March 15 - 18, 2009
Place: Hotel Allegro Chicago
171 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601 USA

The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) is pleased to welcome you to the 12th Annual Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Conference & Exhibition, March 15-18, 2009 in beautiful Chicago, Illinois! In addition to a wide variety of presentations, panels and open discussions with Airport GIS managers, government officials, consultants and vendors, the conference provides: an educational Introduction to Airport GIS roundtable for those new to airport GIS, an Exhibit Room, and opportunities for sharing lessons learned with airports from across the U.S. and around the world.

MAPPS Federal Programs Conference
Date: March 17 - 18, 2009
Place: Westin Washington, DC City Center
Washington, DC USA

MAPPS will return to Washington, DC to meet with agency representatives and walk the halls of the U.S. Capitol, to visit with members of Congress, March 17 and 18 during the annual Federal Programs Conference. The meeting will focus on the partnerships MAPPS has with federal agencies engaged in geospatial work. The highlight of the conference is the time MAPPS members spend on Capitol Hill with their members of Congress advocating legislation and policies impacting the geospatial marketplace. Open to MAPPS Members Only.

Seiler Technology Conference
Date: March 19, 2009
Place: Sylvester Powell, Jr. Community Center
6200 Martway, Mission, KS 66202 USA

Seiler invites you to jump ahead of your competition and experience a jam packed day filled with various educational seminars where we will address your workflows and business challenges and their “Solutions” for your Industry.

Developing with Virtual Earth
Date: March 19, 2009
Place: Thames Valley Park, Microsoft Campus
Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

If you are a developer and want to take working with Virtual Earth to the next level then this event is for you. The first session will comprise of a platform update to bring you up to speed on the latest version of Virtual Earth. Later, Johannes Kebeck, Tim Warr and Alexis Harakis will show how Virtual Earth interacts with other Microsoft technologies to create a powerful tool that can be used for much more than placing pins on maps.

iGEOMAP 2009 - Urban Infrastructure and Geoinformatics
Date: March 20 - 21, 2009
Place: JN Tata Auditorium
Bangalore , India

With almost 300 million Indians living in urban areas (in 3700 towns and cities), the country has the second largest urban population in the world and it is growing at a rapid pace of over 31 percent over the last decade due to higher employment rates in urban areas. It comprises of about 30 per cent of the total population in urban areas and contributes to over 60 per cent of the country's GDP.

Learning Map 3D Utilities Workflow
Date: March 20, 2009
Place: Indianapolis, IN USA

Join us for an AutoCAD® Map 3D event specifically for Municipals and Electric Cooperatives and learn how to improve your electric utilities workflow.

2009 ESRI Worldwide Business Partner Conference (BPC)
Date: March 22 - 24, 2009
Place: Wyndham Hotel and Palm Springs Convention Center
Palm Springs, CA USA

As an ESRI business partner, you are invaluable to the advancement of GIS. The BPC Conference is designed for you, planned to give you the best opportunities to network with ESRI staff and other partners as well as learn about the most recent developments in geospatial technology and how to leverage them in your business. Stay current and competitive and attend this premier event that fuels the strength and reach of GIS.

Association of American Geographers 2009 Annual Meeting
Date: March 22 - 27, 2009
Place: Las Vegas, NV USA

Join 8,000 geographers, GIS specialists, and environmental scientists from around the world in Las Vegas for the very latest in research, policy, and applications in geography, sustainability, and GIScience, during the annual conference of the Association of American Geographers, to be held March 22–27, 2009. The program will feature 4,000 presentations by leading scholars and researchers from more than 60 countries, an international networking reception, and exhibitions showcasing recent scholarly publications, advanced geographic technologies, and expanding employment opportunities.

2009 ESRI Developer Summit
Date: March 23 - 26, 2009
Place: Wyndham Hotel and Palm Springs
Convention Center, Palm Springs, CA USA

Be part of the 2009 ESRI Developer Summit—the ideal resource for professionals developing on an ESRI platform. Connect with ESRI staff and software developers from around the world to explore trends, tips, and best practices for effective GIS development. Attend the 2009 Summit to access the best in spatial developer resources.

Webcast: What's New in AutoCAD 2010
Date: March 24 - April 8, 2009
Place: USA

See the latest features of AutoCAD with this one-hour complimentary webcast. Live Q&A will be offered at the end of the presentation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009     10:00 AM ET
Tuesday, March 24, 2009     2:00 PM ET
Wednesday, April 08, 2009  10:00 AM ET
Wednesday, April 08, 2009  12:00 PM ET
Friday, March 27, 2009         10:00 AM ET
Monday, March 30, 2009      2:00 PM ET
Thursday, April 02, 2009      2:00 PM ET
Friday, April 03, 2009           10:00 AM ET

Date: March 28 - April 1, 2009
Place: Crowne Hotel Plaza
Manama, Bahrain

GIS is "an institutional entity, reflecting an organisational structure that integrates technology with a database, expertise and continuing financial support over time."  This five day conference offers an intensive and dynamic opportunity to refine your knowledge, catch up with key industry players and share best practice lessons with your peers on the latest technologies within GIS.

Mapping Our Pipeline Future
Date: March 31 - April 1, 2009
Place: Sugar Land, TX USA

The PODS Association (www.pods.org) announced today they are hosting a conference for the pipeline GIS industry on March 31 & April 1, 2009. This conference will be held at Fluor Enterprises in Sugar Land, Texas. Registration is free and open to anyone in the pipeline industry including energy, chemicals, water, etc.  Attendees may register for one day or both days.

GEO-9 the complete geospatial event
Date: April 1 - 2, 2009
Place: Ricoh Arena
Coventry, United Kingdom

GEO-9 is the UK's only dedicated geospatial trade exhibition. GEO-9 will be showcasing leading players from every aspect of the geographic information industry. From measurement and data collection through to advanced geospatial analysis, GEO-9 brings them all together at the same event.

ESRI Regional User Conference
Date: April 2 - 3, 2009
Place: Telus Convention Centre
120 9 Avenue SE Calgary, Calgary, AB, T2G 0P3 Canada

ESRI Canada is pleased to invite you to join other GIS professionals for this exclusive opportunity to learn about the latest advances in GIS technology and hear first hand how others in your community are using a geographic approach in their work.