Earth observation satellite with AI ready for launch

September 16th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT

PhiSat’s AI module.

A few months from now will see the launch of the first European satellite to demonstrate how onboard artificial intelligence can improve the efficiency of sending earth observation data back to earth. Dubbed ɸ-Sat, or PhiSat, this artificial intelligence technology will fly on one of the two cubesats that make up the FSSCat mission – a Copernicus Masters winning idea. As the overall 2017 Copernicus Masters winner, FSSCat, was proposed by Spain’s Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and developed by a consortium of European companies and institutes. The two cubesats will collect data, which will be made available through the Copernicus Land and Marine Environment services, using dual microwave and hyperspectral optical instruments. They also carry a set of intersatellite communication technology experiments. To demonstrate the potential of artificial intelligence in space, ESA has been working with partners to develop ɸ-Sat to take the mission to the next level. The hyperspectral camera on one of the cubesats will collect a large number of images of earth, some of which will not be suitable for use because of cloud cover. To avoid downlinking these less than perfect images, the satellite’s artificial intelligence chip will filter them out so that only usable data is returned. This not only ensures better quality data, but makes the delivery much more efficient.

Contact ESA, www.esa.int

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