Feeds

Satellites get smart

Automated flood detection, for starters

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

American scientists are working on software that will make satellites smart enough to alert people on the ground to interesting, or potentially dangerous phenomena. The technology could be used to sift through data from Mars, for instance, to identify sites where there are signs of water, or on Earth, to spot flooding in rivers.

The researchers at the University of Arizona (UA), Arizona State University (ASU) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are developing machine learning and pattern recognition software to teach the satellites to organise the data they send back, so that the most interesting things are returned first.

The software is still very much in development stage, but lab tests have been interesting. The Hydrology group at UA ordered some images from NASA's EO-1 satellite, the satellite they are developing the software for, to see if their software worked.

According to Felipe Ip, a PhD student on the project, it works very nicely: "We didn't know the Diamantina River was flooding, but when we started running the images through our software, it told us, 'Hey, we've got a flood here.' We were delighted because that's just what it's supposed to do."

The flood-detection software compares new and stored pictures of a given region, looking for differences. If things are similar, the satellite does nothing, but if it finds significant difference, it takes more pictures and alerts scientists on the ground.

JPL team members are developing similar software that will be able to detect volcanic activity; and the team at ASU are working to find changes in ice fields.

The three projects are very Earth-focused right now, but the scientists are convinced the techniques will be useful in robotic exploration of the solar system. The idea is that smart space craft visiting other planets can detect and record interesting events, without external input.

The list of potential applications is certainly glamorous. The teams want it to go hunting for volcanic eruptions on Io, cracking ice sheets on Europa, changes in Saturn's rings or the formation of jets on comets.

The flood detection software will be loaded onto the EO-1 satellite for further testing in July. The rest might take a little longer. ®

Related stories

US and EU kiss and make up over Galileo
Met Office bags shiny new supercomputer
Satellite photos pinpoint 'Atlantis'
ESA to probe Earth's magnetic field

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter breaks NINETEEN THOUSAND of your EARTH POUNDS
That's right, OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.