Governments, industries and even private citizens like fishers and gardeners can benefit from the collection of regular, frequent images of Earth’s surface by smallsats — though the number and frequency of these images has increased due to smallsat constellations, their benefits elude most people because they lack sufficient analysis to get the information they need from the imagery.
Draper scientists have developed a computer model to analyze satellite imagery and more effectively reveal socio-cultural conditions. Compounding the problem is that the satellite industry has long been considered too capital-intensive and risky for many investors since a late-‘90s collapse of several satellite communication companies. The relative lack of providers can make getting access to satellite data and the computational tools to analyze it a real challenge.
John Irvine, chief data scientist at Draper, believes satellite imagery is an untapped resource for understanding our world. He and his colleagues at Draper have developed as a simulation tool, in the form of a serious game, for users to explore and quantitatively assess value-maximizing strategies for imagery collection in realistic mission-level scenarios. This tool, known as Understanding Persistence for Better Exploitation, Analysis, and Tasking (UPBEAT), provides a rigorous method for quantifying the value of different commercial imaging systems for addressing specific commercial and environmental needs.
Draper, which has designed satellite and space technologies and models and systems to interpret remote sensing data since the 1960s, sees a boom in satellite imagery and the value such images can bring for uses such as optimizing humanitarian aid, understanding environmental impact, agricultural planning and informing needs for capital investment. But as new space businesses are formed, many lack access to important infrastructure, network and expertise about space, according to Nadja Adilovic, Draper’s program manager for National Security and Space, who added that unlocking the vast potential across the space industry’s value chain is a focus at Draper. There is a huge amount of growth in the satellite industry itself. By applying Draper's knowledge of how to build smallsats, network them autonomously from space to ground stations, route the data securely to the ground and analyze it, Draper helps companies find new ways to accelerate their business plans.
Draper will present their findings at the technically focused 32nd Annual Small Satellite Conference and Adilovic will give a talk about the space industry business “Don’t Just Recycle, Innovate. Designing a New Approach for Ground Control.” Additionally, John Irvine and his colleague Rick Wood, also of Draper, will give present UPBEAT at this show.