There are many movies where satellites offer scary surveillance capabilities. Of course, it is science fiction, but with the latest commercial satellites some level of space surveillance of crops and fields can be achieved. Besides the Big Brother effect, farmers can also benefit from the satellite imagery with increasing detail that become readily available at increasing cadence, writes Tamme van der Wal, scientist at Wageningen University in this article published by Future Farming.
Today, details of 50 cm and smaller can be detected from space from commercial satellite operators. In itself not new, as we know this from aerial photography and drones too, writes van der Wal. The difference is that the space industry now puts hundreds of those so-called nano satellites in orbit, creating a very high revisit capability. This takes us from snapshots to motion: we see the farming activities taking place in (near) real time.
Administrations (re)discover the capabilities of satellites in support of their regulations and eco-schemes. In Europe, administrations from 9 different EU Member States work together in the NIVA4CAP project, looking at ways to ingest these new technologies in their operation. They are now exploring the public data from Europe’s Copernicus program.
The combination of very high resolution and very high cadence creates a strong mechanism for surveillance or even forensics in case one wants to build evidence for misconduct. Now anybody, from insurance to NGOs, from data science startup to BigAg can use the satellite data in their operations. Basically, you can’t hide from the satellite.
This very, very high-resolution imagery helps farmers in their crop management. It helps early detection of anomalies and will be an excellent base for many different task maps. And the very high cadence implies that we can actually see when fields being ploughed, and crops being seeded, irrigated, fertilised and harvested.