Monday, December 27, 2010

Australian Remote Sensing Satellites Soon?

Satellite images have now become a vital back-up tool in responding to disasters all over the world.

But Australia doesn't own any satellites, instead relying entirely on cooperation from foreign governments and commercial operators.

State Emergency Service volunteers often risk their lives to rescue others -- and sometimes they get there too late -- but lately their response has been helped by satellite images bought from overseas.

“This up to date information really helps us to make the right decisions when it comes to lives that are potentially at risk,” SES Geographic Information Officer Austin Pepper told SBS.

But Andrew Dempster from UNSW says having to buy information can hamper rescue efforts.

"The problem with always buying your data from other people is that you can't guarantee that the satellites will be tasked to do what you want. And you always have to pay for it," he told SBS.

The need for help from space was highlighted on one of Australia's darkest days, when a firestorm swept across Victoria, killing more than 200 people.

Peter Woodgate from SICRC says many more lives could have been saved on Black Saturday if rescue teams had had access to certain satellite images.


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