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Satellite images used to aid disaster relief

Jenny Winder, News Writer
Jan 21, 2015, 16:30 UTC

Sen—A nonprofit space agency aims to bring the power of satellite images to the aid of charities working to combat disasters around the world.

Extreme weather, deforestation, wildfires, floods, drought, famine, poverty and genocide ravage areas across the globe. There are numerous Earth-observing spacecraft taking images of affected areas and plenty of nonprofit organisations working on the ground to help cope with such disasters.

Colorado-based humanitarian space agency SpaceUnited operates the ImageGryphon mission to help bridge the gap by purchasing spacecraft images of Earth and donating them to the relevant organisations to improve their efforts.

Data given as a part of this program has contributed to a wide array of humanitarian initiatives including refugee aid, farm irrigation and genocide prevention.

Recently SpaceUnited provided a free 36 square km satellite image of a remote Cambodian village, to another Colorado based nonprofit organisation, LightBridge International. The image will be used to improve water access in MineField Village, Cambodia, based on more accurate population data gleaned from the technology.

“The satellite image will give us quantitative estimates of the village’s total area and number of structures. These measurements will help us get a better estimate of the village’s population and usable farmland,” said LightBridge director Karla Tillapaugh.

“The image will also help to identify natural water sources that villagers utilize, and help us identify the best options for water filtration within the village.”

The Pleiades constellation of satellites. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space GEO SGSA

The image was taken by one of the Pleiades constellation of satellites and was purchased through Colorado reseller AllSource Analysis, who also provided free imagery analysis for the project that was integral to the population density measurement process.

"LightBridge International does some amazing work in Cambodia and this satellite image will improve lives,” said SpaceUnited president Troy Dunn.

Dunn told Sen: "LightBridge International has been working to improve MineField Village since 2009. Sadly, the village derives its name from the actual minefield that surrounds the community."

"A single satellite image, like the one provided to LightBridge International, may be used to help improve access to water by determining the location of new irrigation channels, but this charity will also be looking at the image to help identify previously unmarked landmines and possibly the development of a new paved road," Dunn explained.

"High resolution satellite imagery can be used in a myriad of charitable ways, including locating landmines, documenting human rights violations, improving the infrastructure of refugee camps, counting endangered animal populations, monitoring illegal logging operations and much, much, more," he concluded.