In precision agriculture, satellite data is used to gather precise knowledge of a farmer’s land, pinpointing variations in crop growth and condition. The farmer is shown just where fertiliser or crop protection chemicals need to be applied, and in what quantities. GPS-based instructions can be relayed directly to tractors and other automated farm equipment. The aim is to maximise crop yield and quality while minimising production costs and environmental impact.
“There is a general emphasis at the moment on producing more food for the ever-growing world population,” says Paul Stephens, DMCii Director of Marketing. “Monitoring from the high ground of space represents a cost-effective way to help farmers use land and resources more efficiently.”
For the last five years DMC satellite data has been utilised by specialist precision agriculture companies. The imagery comes geo-rectified, as is standard, for integration into users’ Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software. But because the DMC satellites are operated together as a constellation, they offer much more timely data than a single satellite, delivering rapid revisit opportunities every 1-2 days. Compare this to Landsat’s 16 day minimum revisit time which often means months between cloud-free images.
The improved-quality 22m data produced by the two newest DMC satellites has opened up new service possibilities for value-adding companies, with more detail making the data suitable for much smaller field sizes. In addition, these higher resolution images now have 10-bit instead of 8-bit pixels, yielding greater sensitivity in the DMC’s three Landsat-compatible spectral bands of red, green and near-infrared.
“In the past, precision agriculture planned what to do in the current year based on last year’s growth patterns,” explains Paul Stephens. “This was down to a lack of availability of up-to-date satellite images. Now the DMC constellation can cover whole countries every 2-3 days which typically means cloud-free imagery every week or so for any given field. This opens the door to near real-time precision agriculture – applying inputs to crops according to their current growth patterns and condition.”
The DMC satellites are unique because they combine relatively high resolution with an extremely wide 650 km swath width. Enhanced onboard storage and downlink bandwidth on the 22m satellites stretch this along-track length up to more than 1200 km.
“The satellites deliver vast area coverage,” adds Paul Stephens. “So a precision farming company in France for example might receive a single image that shows almost the whole of the country. They can analyse hundreds of customers’ farms based on that image alone, as well as market services to other farms who have to sign up.”
The sensors on all satellites a rigorously calibrated so that customers can use the data from any satellite interchangeably and extract quantitative biophysical information about the crop.
2011 will see two new DMC satellites commence operations – Nigeriasat-2 and Nigeriasat-X – with 5m, 32m and 22m imaging resolutions, joining the rest of the internationally-owned, jointly-run DMC constellation.
About DMC International Imaging Ltd
DMC International Imaging Ltd (DMCii) is a UK based supplier of remote sensing data products and services for international Earth Observation (EO) markets. DMCii supplies programmed and archived optical satellite imagery provided by the multi-satellite Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC). DMCii’s data is used extensively in a wide variety of commercial and government applications including agriculture, forestry and environmental mapping.
In partnership with the UK Space Agency and the other Disaster Monitoring Constellation member nations (Algeria, China, Nigeria, Turkey and Spain), DMCii works with the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ to provide free satellite imagery for humanitarian use in the event of major international disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes, fires and flooding.
DMCii was formed in October 2004 and is a subsidiary of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), the world leader in small satellite technology. SSTL designed and built the Disaster Monitoring Constellation with the support of the UK Space Agency and in conjunction with the other Disaster Monitoring Constellation Consortium member nations listed above.
DMC International Imaging Ltd is not affiliated in any way with Intergraph Corp., Z/I Imaging Corp., or their registered trademark DMC.