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News & Media

Satellite Imagery at OSRL

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Satellite remote sensing plays a strategic role in today's global maritime surveillance and environmental monitoring programmes. During an oil spill, satellite imagery supports the entire response process, from providing the initial detection and assessment for situational awareness to directing remediation efforts and conducting on-going assessments and monitoring.

Satellite imagery provides both wide area coverage area and very detailed views of oil on water incident and is widely accepted and understood by regulatory agencies, operators and oil spill response organisations. Satellite imagery does not replace the need for aerial surveillance, rather, it is a complementary surveillance method and particularly useful as a means of effectively tasking aerial surveillance missions and verifying trajectory modelling. Multi-spatial coverage from space also helps keep response personnel out of harm's way.

OSRL has employed the use satellite of imagery in many global incident responses over the past few years. To enhance its incident response capabilities and improve service for Members, OSRL has recently signed a satellite imagery contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA). MDA is a Canadian-based communications and information company that operates the powerful C-Band RADARSAT-2 satellite. Leveraging its network of ground reception stations, MDA also provides access to many of the world's highest-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and optical satellite missions.

All satellite sensors are subject to a range of operational sensitivities to environmental conditions. However, SAR satellites collect both wide area and detailed imagery in any light condition 24 hours each day, through clouds, fog, and rain. Only very calm or rough seas and the presence of sea ice restrict the use of SAR for accurate oil spill detection in the offshore environment. Because of their capability, RADARSAT-2, and the upcoming RADARSAT Constellation Mission are the ‘go-to' oil spill sensors used by OSRL and MDA.

Optical satellites are very useful in providing high-resolution images of oiled shorelines and up-to-date information on local conditions to support the response, including information on access routes, or on environmental conditions such as land cover. MDA provides expert advice on the right sensor for the task, based on timing, environmental conditions, and weather.

The signing of the contract with MDA means OSRL Members now have improved access to a much broader service. A 24/7 arrangement is in place with MDA to ensure rapid response to imagery requests and delivery of satellite data in a secure, confidential manner. The data provided in GIS-ready formats can be easily and rapidly imported into a visualisation platform or a Member's Common Operating Picture (COP).

Who is MDA?

MDA is a global communications and information company providing operational solutions to commercial and government organizations worldwide. Its subsidiary, MDA Geospatial Services Inc. is a leading provider of advanced geospatial information products derived from the world's highest resolution satellites and aerial systems. Nearly five decades of experience successfully delivering information solutions for complex and demanding operations support has made MDA one of the primary information sources used by the Oil and Gas, Land and Maritime Surveillance, National Mapping, Defence, Aeronautical Information, and Mining markets.