Airbus: powering the NZ Aerospace Challenge
Airbus is a proud sponsor of the New Zealand Aerospace Challenge, where teams can access data and digital images in the company’s The OneAtlas Platform to develop innovative solutions to real-world agricultural problems.
Airbus Applications and Solutions Manager Seyed Miri explains the latest developments in the aerospace and agritech industries and how Airbus technology is creating new ways for people to access and understand satellite data.
Airbus, an international pioneer in the aerospace sector, is also the oldest commercial satellite imagery provider and an early pioneer in the use of remote sensing to help farmers. The company started by serving agriculture institutions to support the implementation and monitoring of policies using space-based satellite data.
With the advent of higher resolution images from satellite imagery, Airbus extended its services to precision agriculture with the Farmstar service, which is used daily by more than 16,000 French farmers. In addition to this service, Airbus supported agriculture insurance by providing an index for insurance companies to compensate graziers in case of grassland production shortages.
Today, Airbus offers expertise in satellite imagery and crop analytics to agricultural advisors, agronomists and online agricultural service providers. It also provides a constant up-to-date reference layer for premium crop analytics, served as an Application Programming Interface API. This product, called Verde, was launched in February 2019.
Airbus provides biophysical parameter extraction from satellite images as part of Verde services. This is an important alternative solution to the currently used method called NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) for agriculture and farm practices, and provides more accurate results for the duration of crop growth/season.
Although it requires sophisticated, complex processing algorithms, it features analytics that are highly correlated to biomass and the nitrogen nutrition, such as Fraction of green Vegetation Cover (FCover), Leaf Area Index (LAI), or chlorophyll content. Verde’s analytics are robust and independent from the image sensor, and do not saturate even late in the growth cycle.
These parameters can then be used in a straightforward way to follow crop evolution and compare situations at two different points in time with no bias and free of ground measurement.
The images open the gate to more advanced farming diagnosis and recommendation. Verde’s FCover works for any crop, while its LAI and chlorophyll content analytics are currently available for wheat, barley, corn, soybean, rapeseed, potatoes, cotton, sugar beet, sugarcane, almonds, rice, alfalfa, and grass. More crops are regularly added to this list.
In addition, the Intelligence division of Airbus designed The OneAtlas Platform to provide access to its available imagery, software and existing developed services.
In the future, newly developed unmanned platforms called High Altitude Pseudo-Satellites (HAPS) – such as Airbus’ Zephyr - could potentially provide on-demand images and information in a real time, revolutionising the live monitoring and persistent surveillance capabilities in the market.
Given that HAPS could be used as a communication platform, it could also solve some of the connectivity issues associated to the use of Internet of Things (IoTs) in remote areas for the precision agriculture market.
Data coming from smaller Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which have shorter flying times compared with HAPS, can also be used for the calibration of satellite data to produce more accurate results where applicable for any specific areas.
Competing teams in the New Zealand Aerospace Challenge can access Airbus data (Verde, optical and radar images) for developing new solutions for protecting environment, carrying on sustainable agriculture practices for having better water quality in the waterways and measuring water quality using a combination of Airbus and third party data collected from various sensors and platforms.
New Zealand, with its rich history of innovation and agriculture, has the opportunity to lead the rest of the world in this exciting and important field