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Space Based Lidar Holds Promise

image from space based earth observation

Following years of development by space agencies around the world, the transition to space based Earth observation was further facilitated by private companies that have developed high-resolution imaging satellites at substantially lower costs and with greater agility than government efforts. Companies like RapidEye reduced costs and improved scalability by introducing the first commercial constellation approach to Earth observation. In the SAR domain, companies such as Infoterra and Capella Space have played a pivotal role in enabling its successful transition to space-based platforms.

From an article in Room by Clint Graumann.

These space-based assets have paved the way for extensive applications in both the commercial and governmental sectors, ranging from military reconnaissance to global climate monitoring. They have effectively demonstrated a viable model of data transfer from ground to air, from air to government (space) and from government space to commercial space-based applications. Nonetheless, an important piece of the puzzle remains missing: the implementation of space-based LiDAR collection.

Light Technology

Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) offers a unique advantage in that it enables remote sensing by actively illuminating the Earth’s surface instead of relying upon the light from the sun. In essence, LiDAR is a light-based version of synthetic aperture radar, which itself uses the radio-frequency part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Historically, LiDAR technology has been employed on aircraft or ground-based platforms, using laser pulses to measure distances with extreme precision. This approach creates detailed, real-time, three-dimensional maps. Unlike standard optical imaging, LiDAR can operate in low-light conditions and has the ability to penetrate foliage, such as forest canopies, to reveal hidden details. As a result, LiDAR is indispensable for applications such as flood modelling, environmental monitoring and intelligence gathering.

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