Tag Archives: satellite tracking

Answer Everything: satellites

Built by the Indian Space Research Organisation, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle threw itself into the sky at 3.58am GMT on February 15th, 2017 It took with it a record-breaking 104 satellites—88 of which belonged to a single company, Planet, a remote sensing business based in San Francisco. Planet now has 149 satellites in orbit—enough for it to provide its customers with new moderately detailed images of all the Earth’s land surface every single day.  The satellites Planet makes—it calls them “doves”—measure 10cm by 10cm by 30cm.

Providing daily updated images of the earth is not enough… Processing the images to answer pressing questions: what has changed since yesterday? Is that illegal logging? What does the number of containers in these ports suggest about trade balances? Planet will be providing more such analysis itself, but there are also third parties eager to play. SpaceKnow, a startup which focuses on turning satellite data into analysis the financial community will pay for, has just raised $4m….

Planet is not the only company using small satellites to produce big data; the launch on February 15th also carried up eight ship-tracking satellites owned by Spire, just a couple of streets away from Planet. The companies hope that, as more and more customers come to see the value of an endlessly updated, easily searchable view of the world, insights from satellites will become ever more vital to the data-analysis market. The more normal their wares start to seem, the more spectacular their future may be

Excerpts from  Space Firms: Eyes on Earth ,Economist, Feb. 18, 2017

Children Slavery Markets

ferry lake Volta Ghana, image from wikipedia

Crowdsourcing project Tomnod (part of the DigitalGlobe company) is working with the public-private partnership The Global Fund to End Slavery to produce accurate and public data on slavery.More than 20,000 children are forced into slavery on Lake Volta, Ghana, the International Labour Organization estimates.They work 19-hour days and carry out dangerous tasks which leave many disabled, disfigured or even dead, campaigners say. Yet the size of the lake, 8,500  square kilometres (3,280 sq miles), makes it difficult to map from the ground and provide an exact figure of the number of child slaves, said Caitlyn Milton at Tomnod, part of the satellite company DigitalGlobe..  More than 10,000 volunteers have contributed to the campaign since it launched in mid-October 2015.

Although child labour is illegal in Ghana, thousands of children are sent away by parents who believe traffickers’ promises of an education and a better life.  In reality, children as young as four years old risk their lives diving into the lake’s murky waters to untangle nets, and end up working in such horrendous conditions that many die.  For other parents, selling some of their children into slavery is the only way to feed the rest of their family.  The average couple in the Lake Volta region earns little over $2,000 a year, meaning that a family with eight children will have only $2 a week – the price of a loaf of bread – to feed each child, according to The Global Fund to End Slavery….

“Unfortunately you don’t have to look hard to find children working on the lake, but it takes a lot to mount rescue operations that are backed up by the long-term support necessary to ensure children are not retrafficked,” Kofi Annan said.  Yet hard data could increase the government’s efforts to end slavery, by prosecuting traffickers and providing social support so that there is somewhere for children to escape to, he added.

Tomnod has run other projects including monitoring illegal fishing in Costa Rica and locating elephant poachers in the Democratic Republic of Congo…

Excerpts from Eyes in the sky: online “mappers” track child slavery in Ghana, Reuters, Oct. 28, 2015

The Isolated Villages of the Amazon

image from wikipedia

The vast jungles of the Amazon rainforest harbor tribes mostly isolated from the outside world, whose way of life, largely unchanged for millennia, is now increasingly threatened by intrusions from modern civilization.  Now, scientists reveal they can monitor these “uncontacted tribes” using satellites, which would allow safe, inexpensive and noninvasive tracking of these tribes in order to protect them from outside threats.

The investigators focused on indigenous groups concentrated near the headwaters of the Envira River, located at the border of Brazil and Peru. These include the Mashco-Piro, nomadic hunter-gatherers who live in Peru’s densely forested Madre de Dios region, and a number of Pano-speaking farming societies.

The researchers combed through satellite images to look at five isolated villages previously identified via overflights by Brazilian officials. They confirmed these locations and measured the sizes of their villages, houses and gardens. The villages ranged from a small one of about 50 people to a large and growing village of about 300 people. “We can find isolated villages with remote sensing and study them over time,” Walker told Live Science. “We can ask: Are they growing? Do they move?”

Surprisingly, based on the sizes of the houses and villages, the scientists find the population densities of these isolated villages is about 10 times greater, on average, than other villages of indigenous Brazilian peoples….. The researchers now plan to focus on 29 more isolated villages….

Excepts, Charles Q. Choi ,Isolated Amazon Tribes Monitored with Space-Age Technology,LiveScience.com, Nov. 5, 2014

Ready for Rio 2012? Amazon Rainforest, Deforestation and Satellite Tracking

Eight South American countries pledged  to boost cooperation to protect one of the planet’s largest natural reserves from deforestation and illegal trafficking in timber and minerals.  Representatives of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela gathered in Manaus, northern Brazil, also vowed to speak with one voice at next June’s UN conference on sustainable development in Rio.

The Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, is one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water.  Tuesday’s (Nov. 22, 2011) meeting involving signatories of the 1978 Amazon Cooperation Treaty (OTCA), focused on the Amazon Fund, a joint initiative launched in 2008 to combat deforestation and support conservation and sustainable development.  “The Brazilian government is committed to revitalizing the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (OTCA),” said Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota as he opened the one-day meeting. “A stronger OTCA is in the interest of member states.”  Also present were his counterparts Ricardo Patino of Ecuador, Suriname’s Winston Lackin, Venezuela’s Ricardo Maduro as well as representatives of other OTCA parties.  They reviewed agreements signed to protect the Amazon and discussed navigation rules on the Amazon river and a joint stance at next year’s Rio conference.

Earlier a Brazilian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Brazil, which has the largest tract of Amazon rainforest, was keen on “expediting the process to implement the Amazon Fund.”  The initiative has received donations of nearly $58 million (42 million euros) over the past two years, well short of the initial target of one billion dollars.  It notably seeks to improve satellite tracking of forest deforestation and environmental plans in border areas.  “Sharing forest data among Amazon countries will facilitate the adoption of coordinated policies to combat deforestation and will ensure that we are better prepared for international discussions on sustainable development,” Patriota said.

Last year the Amazon lost 7,000 square kilometers (2,702 square miles), down from the historic peak of 2003-2004, when more than 27,700 square kilometers were deforested.  Officials say Amazon logging mainly results from fires, the advance of agriculture and cattle farming as well as illegal trafficking in timber and minerals.

Ecuador is meanwhile pushing an innovative proposal to combat global warming under which it would not exploit its oil reserves in the Amazon in exchange for international compensation of $3.6 billion dollars over 12 years.

Covering an area of seven million square kilometers, the Amazon is home to 40,000 plant species, millions of animal species and some 420 indigenous tribes, including 60 who live in total isolation.  According to OTCA, 38.7 million people live in the region, roughly 11 percent of the eight Amazon countries’ population.

By Hector Velasco, Amazon countries vow to enhance conservation efforts, Agence France Presse,Nov. 23, 2011