Space Products and Services
Governance, Education, and Infrastructure
Monitoring and managing land use via remote sensing satellites is likely to be increasingly important for local governments. Remote sensing data has been used for population estimation since 1960, but the methodology of modeling population and population density accurately is still the subject of academic discussion. Since restrictions in the United States were lifted in the mid-90s, the potential for further development exists for the commercial remote sensing industry.
As expressed by the OECD, space can make a valuable contribution to the challenges that may face our societies and governments in the future. Space platforms can monitor air pollution and greenhouse gases for assessment and management, as well as natural disasters, enabling effective responses. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina showcased the use of satellite capabilities for disaster management, communications, monitoring, and search and rescue.
In addition to fleet management, police officers regularly use GPS systems. Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma recently passed laws requiring lifetime electronic monitoring for individuals who have committed certain crimes. A combination of an electronic anklet and a GPS transmitter allows officers to respond immediately if a convict enters an area which is off limits.
Search and rescue (SAR) missions often use satellite communications along with data from GPS receivers to improve success rates. The searchers’ safety and success are increased when there is an accurate record of their positions. For areas that have been mapped (for example, using satellite imagery), GPS units can be programmed with coordinates of dangerous sites (mine shaft s or cliff s) to warn searchers as they approach. Search dogs commonly wear GPS receivers so the search team can track the area the dog has covered.
Remote sensing satellites are used in urban planning, such as estimating population density and regional growth. Analysis and processing of satellite images can create maps that identify building use. Such patterns can also be analyzed over time. In this way, the number of residential dwellings can be estimated from high-resolution satellite images of cities. Dwelling estimates can then be aggregated to any geographical unit of analysis, population estimates for cities, and a dwelling density surface that can be categorized into any number of residential land-use classes.
Satellite communications have allowed governments in developing nations to establish e-governance portals and services without investing in terrestrial infrastructure. In Mexico, a distance learning course was beamed via satellite and the Internet to more than 1,800 teachers. Several governments, like the Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN) in India, have established VSAT networks to communicate between offices and bring governmental services to remote provinces.
Satellite capabilities are enabling dependable voting mechanisms in governments around the world. An e-voting satellite network, such as Gilat’s VSAT network, consists of a satellite dish and modem at each polling site connected to a central hub. Each poll operates electronic voting machines, which are connected to the central hub database via these very small aperture terminal (VSAT) connections.
Remote outposts and naval vessels also can benefit from the high bandwidth mobile communication network offered by satellites. In 2006, the Canadian Coast Guard selected Telesat to provide ship-to-shore communications via satellites.
Natural disasters often disable vital terrestrial communication networks. In these instances, telecommunications satellites can preserve communication within a devastated area. Satellite phones provide instant communication infrastructure for first responders and their command centers. Satellite data and phone networks can be set up quickly to aid in disaster management activities, helping the government and other institutions with activities such as organization of relief efforts. Both Globalstar and Iridium deployed more than 10,000 satellite phones each after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in August 2005.
Satellite communications enable a growing number of distance learning and tele-education programs. In 2007, the Brazilian education network, enabled by Hughes Network Systems’ HughesNet, completed rollout in the state of Amazonas.