Geospatial Round-up – May 2019

May 28th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT

China launches 44th BeiDou satellite

The 44th BeiDou (BDS) satellite was launched onboard from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 20 April 2019. As the 20th constellation satellite and the first inclined Geo-stationary (IGSO) satellite added to the BDS-3 constellation, this satellite joins the previously launched 18 MEO satellites and 1 GEO satellite. The constellation with three types of satellite orbits will increase the number of visible satellites in Asia-Pacific region and provide better services. The BDS satellite and the launch vehicle used in the mission are developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology respectively, which are affiliates of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. This is the first BDS satellite launch in 2019, which marks the beginning of the intensive campaign of the BDS constellation deployment.

New tool makes ocean data accessible

A new web-based interactive tool for ocean mapping and planning created by NOAA and the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, will give everyone from ocean industries to coastal managers, students, as well as the general public the opportunity to be an ocean explorer from their own computer. The OceanReports web tool provides users specialised ocean neighbourhood analyses, including maps and graphics by analysing more than 100 ocean datasets instantaneously. US ocean waters comprise nearly four million square miles and is one of the largest exclusive economic xones (EEZ) in the world. Now, when users outline any area in the US EEZ using the tool, they can get detailed information about habitats and species, industries in the area, potential hazards such as undersea cables or shipwrecks, economic value of ocean commerce, and other detailed oceanographic information. The tool builds on more than a decade of data collection to transform how seemingly disparate ocean information can be delivered to the nation’s ocean and coastal industries, which add $320-billion in gross domestic product to the nation’s economy.

Brazil approves first BVLOS operations

Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) has approved BVLOS flights to be carried out in Brazil for the first time in the country’s history. ANAC officially approved SenseFly drones for use in future BVLOS missions carried out by Brazilian drone operators. The authorisation comes almost two years after the publication of regulation RBAC-E94 in 2017, which legislated the use of drones for civil applications in Brazil. The approval permits BVLOS drone flights to 400 ft (120 m) with a 5 km radius from a licensed pilot or observer, compared to VLOS operations, which restrict the current use of drones to a 500 m radius. One benefit of this new authorisation is that drone operators can now navigate and map larger and more remote areas, which will expand the professional use of drones in a diverse range of sectors. As the first BVLOS approval achieved in the country, the announcement marks a pivotal point in Brazil’s commercial drone industry and will play an important role in defining risk models and shaping safe, fit-for-purpose BVLOS regulations in Brazil.

Launch of the second high speed data satellite

The EDRS-C satellite, the second node of the SpaceDataHighway network (also known as EDRS), will be launched into geostationary orbit at 31° East on 24 July 2019 by an Ariane 5 launcher. Once positioned above Europe, it will provide redundant back-up for the SpaceDataHighway system, double transmission capacity and be able to relay the data from two observation satellites simultaneously. This second satellite will be joining EDRS-A which transmits on a daily basis the images of earth acquired by the Copernicus programme’s four Sentinel observation satellites. Since it entered service in late 2016, it has achieved more than 20 000 laser connections. The reliability rate has reached 99,5%, and these successful connections have downloaded more than 1 petabyte of data. SpaceDataHighway satellites can connect to low-orbiting observation satellites at a distance up to 45 000 km, intelligence UAVs or mission aircraft via laser. From its position in geostationary orbit, the SpaceDataHighway system relays data collected by observation satellites to earth in near-real-time, a process that would normally take several hours. It thus enables the quantity of image and video data transmitted by observation satellites to be tripled and their mission plan to be reprogrammed at any time and in just a few minutes. A third communication node is to be positioned over the Asia-Pacific region by around 2024.

Project to map energy and productivity

Researchers at the University of Surrey are leading a new ESRC funded research project exploring the role of energy in the UK’s productivity puzzle. The team will be mapping the links between energy and productivity in the UK. The project will also look to understand the relationships between wellbeing and productivity. All economic activity involves the use and transformation of energy. The quality of energy resources is declining, meaning we have to work harder to get the energy we need to power the economy. One of the areas the team will be exploring is whether this could have contributed to the UK’s declining productivity growth.

AI centre established in Ghana

Google established an artificial intelligence research laboratory in Ghanain capital of Accra, which the company said will take on challenges across the continent, including healthcare, education and agriculture. The company also said the lab will help address economic, political and environmental issues. The company is working with universities and start-ups in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa to enhance AI development in the region. Similar research centres have already opened in other cities around the world.

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