Feeds

Satellites get smart

Automated flood detection, for starters

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top three mobile application threats

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

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.