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Obscured by smoke no more!

by Santosh singh

There’s no smoke without a fire and vice versa, how can we detect the fire then using remotely sensed data? Well, once again its DigitalGlobe to the rescue with its swanky new satellite Worldview-3 which has 8 SWIR bands of which band 8 provides maximum smoke penetration. Yes, a very high resolution satellite, which offers super spectral bands as well! The SWIR bands are so fine that they are capable of identifying different minerals as well, which will prove to be a boon for the geological and mining sectors. The following images illustrate the SWIR sensor capability to see through smoke!

Forest fire at the Klamath National Park California, as seen by a VNIR sensor. Image Courtesy: DigitalGlobe

Forest fire at the Klamath National Park California, as seen by SWIR sensors of Worldview-3 Image courtesy: DigitalGlobe

Band 8 of WorldView-3 Sensor showing forest fire. Image Courtesy: DigitalGlobe

Worldview-3 satellite, the 6th addition to DigitalGlobe’s constellation of very high resolution satellites has continued their legacy of the “firsts” since all its sensors became operational in August, 2014. This revolutionary super-spectral satellite has completely changed the face of high resolution remote sensing. The satellite offers a range of 8 SWIR bands in addition to the 8 multispectral bands that are available in Worldview-2, at a high radiometric resolution of 14 bits per pixel. As the satellite has a revisit time of less than 1 day and gives high resolution SWIR data at 3.7 m, it can prove to be indispensable for disaster management purposes such as inland flooding applications. This inclusion has also allowed users to differentiate between snow and cloud cover, which is a path-breaking achievement for the snow cover mapping applications. Furthermore, SWIR bands aid the geological characterization of the terrain which allow for economically rewarding mineral exploration.

Geological Mapping using WorldView-3 imagery. Image Courtesy:DigitalGlobe

The U. S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lifted the restrictions imposed on the distribution of satellite data at 30 cm (PAN) and 1.2 m (MSS) resolution on 25th Feb 2014. The data controls have been relaxed further subsequently, allowing DigitalGlobe to distribute 25 cm (PAN) and 1 m (MSS) data. This is a drastic improvement over the existing 40 cm datasets available and will prove to be a boon for the super resolution mapping sector such as precision agriculture and forestry.

In addition to these Worldview-3 also offers a unique capability of mapping the clouds, aerosols, vapour ice and snow (CAVIS) at resolution of 30 m using 12 separate spectral bands. Even atmospheric satellites do not provide this functionality at such a detailed spatial scale. This capability will completely alter the role of remote sensing data in meteorological applications like Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models. Since, the revisit time of the sensor is less than 1 day it can provide invaluable comprehensive information about atmospheric processes. These bands can also be utilized to assess the atmospheric effects on the satellite data and to remove them.

DigitalGlobe has managed to set a new standard of excellence once again with the launch of this multifaceted satellite. Let’s hope this trend of technological brilliance continues in the years to come.


SATPALDA is a privately owned company and a leading provider of satellite imagery and GeoSpatial services to the user community. Established in 2002, SATPALDA has successfully completed wide range of photogrammetric and Remote Sensing Projects.

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