Entrepreneurs at the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Business Incubation centre in the Netherlands have used radar technology from the Envisat remote-sensing satellite to develop a radar that can monitor land and buildings from small aircraft.
The radar can monitor structures such as dams, harbours, canals and buildings. Several flights over the same location can spot changes between pictures, revealing ground movements that could affect structures.
The sensor’s main advantage is that it can be flown on small, inexpensive aircraft. In comparison, conventional bulky radar require the use of large, costly aircraft.
‘Because our system is so compact, it can be mounted on very small unmanned aircraft or on single-engine aircraft such as the Cessna 172. This makes it easy to take as many pictures of items or areas on land as necessary, at a much lower cost,’ explained Adriano Meta, inventor of the radar and director of MetaSensing, the company he started to exploit the technology.
‘Because our sensor is simple to use and can work at the speed of a small aeroplane, we can cover up to 600km2 per hour with a resolution up to 20cm,’ added Meta.
Once the sensor is operational later this year, the start-up company will look for investment funding and begin the market introduction of its high-resolution, mapping and monitoring technology.
The synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology developed by the ESA for its satellites is now used for various applications, such as providing terrain information to geologists to understand ground movements and help in mineral exploration, imaging oil spills in water to help public agencies intervene at the right time and mapping ice hazards for navigators.