05 June 2020
Petermann glacier in Greenland. COSMO-SkyMed radar image
It’s time to act, to take care of this world, our world. It’s time to reconnect with our planet. As the experience of the Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, we breathe as one with our Planet, our only home. As we celebrate World Environment Day 2020, words such as respect, commitment and unity inform our common cause to protect the natural world and achieve a sustainable environment for all.
Earth, viewed from the space with Leonardo’s technologies, is increasingly fragile. Just as fragile are its ecosystems, now under careful observation. The data we collect is indispensable to understand the delicate balance between our planet, which we must safeguard for future generations, and the human race, its cumbersome tenant. Environment Day is a recurring reminder that we, as the technological species with capabilities of changing things, have responsibility to take care of our planet.
The last hundred years have seen a quadrupling of the human population, which has exceeded seven billion, and an exceptional growth of the planetary economy, with a global GDP increased by twenty times. This expansion has been accompanied by radical changes in human-planet interaction, which have caused unprecedented effects on the ecosystem compared to past millennia. Technological progress determines complex disturbances of the ecological system, which in turn trigger unforeseeable medium to long term consequences.
In recent decades, ecological and economic research has tried several times to establish the "limits of development" and to estimate the threshold values for each of the disruptions that are affecting the Earth system, such as climate change and biosphere integrity. However, evaluating the true level of our disruption is dependent on too many uncertainties and are not easy to monitor. And here lies the heart of Leonardo's role, using technology to learn, measure, react. And reinvent.
The images from satellites orbiting around the Earth provide a wide variety of useful data to inform environmental protection - including information on the surface temperature of land and sea, on acidification and water quality, on soil’s humidity, plant health and air pollution. This data can be used in many areas…
Monitoring the Ozone layer - The GOME-2 (Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment-2), on board the MetOp satellites, is an image spectrometer that collects data to measure the concentration of ozone and other gases in the atmosphere that protect the Earth from harmful effects of ultraviolet rays.
Measuring Environmental change on land and in the oceans, where the SLSTR (Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer), on board the Sentinel-3 satellite (part of the European Copernicus program), can measure temperature through optical and thermal sensors, providing valuable support to meteorology and climatology. Then there is Floris, the high-resolution spectrometer to map the health of vegetation, which detects the intensity of the fluorescence of chlorophyll photosynthesis, some 800 kilometers away. Thanks to the ALADIN (Atmospheric LAser Doppler INstrument) ultraviolet laser, Aeolus is the first satellite capable of measuring wind speed and direction on a planetary scale.
Understanding global warming - With Earth observation satellite systems, it’s possible to identify areas or neighborhoods where heat “islands” are generated within cities. The analysis of the acquired images allows a daily monitoring of the temperature of the entire urban territory, giving the opportunity to identify in which urban areas the effects of the heat wave could have a greater impact.
There are also countless applications of PRISMA, the new satellite for terrestrial observation. Launched by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) on March 22, 2019 PRISMA is able to monitor the delicate terrestrial ecosystem, including water and soil conditions, but also the chemical elements in the atmosphere - data that can be valuable also in case of natural disasters. In a few seconds and from over 600 kilometers away, PRISMA carries out chemical-physical analysis of the areas under observation by identifying the spectral bands of each physical element and returns extremely precise information.
Our environmental protection is also carried out through partnerships with the entire innovation ecosystem. For example, Telespazio, e-GEOS and GAF along with Politecnico di Milano, University "La Sapienza" of Rome, SEELab of SDA Bocconi and other companies and start-ups, have signed the GEOHub charter, a network that facilitates open innovation to develop geo-information solutions for environmental protection and sustainable development.
These are all tangible examples of Leonardo's mission to seize the opportunities offered by technological advances such as geo-information satellite services and big data, artificial intelligence applications, cloud services, blockchain and machine learning, to provide innovative tools that transform spatial big data into targeted, timely and easy-to-use applications in sectors such as emergency management, precision agriculture, environmental and infrastructure monitoring, business intelligence.
On top of this Leonardo through e-GEOS, also provides monitoring of oil spills at sea and ship’s geo-location (SEonSE), interferometric measurements to control landslides, thematic cartography for agriculture, forestry and precision agriculture (AgriGeo), services for urban areas (UrbanGEO) and monitoring of the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic area.
The ARCSAR (Arctic Security and Emergency Preparedness Network), the European project within Horizon 2020, was launched to encourage discussion on safety, emergency response, technological development, economic, geopolitical and environmental perspectives in the Arctic region. Leonardo is the only industrial partner of the project, working together with research centres and institutions from across 13 countries. In addition to the satellite systems already active in the region, the company will make available to the project technologies such as systems for maritime patrol and for navigation and integrated technologies to protect the territory from ongoing climate change.
Is this the end of the story? No, we are only at the beginning. But it is a beginning of which Leonardo is proud. Especially in this time of emergency that reminds us that the survival and sustainability of our planet must be at the heart of our existence. We are nothing without a home!