[Music plays] (Narrator) Thousands of kilometres
above the Earth’s surface hundreds of satellites are providing
information to decision makers, informing how we manage
mineral exploration, farming practices and
environmental protection. In fact, there are at least 60
current Earth observation programs in federal and
state governments, estimated to be worth approximately
950 million dollars. CSIRO researchers recently teamed up
with fellow scientists from Japan, China, Israel and France to head into the outback to
make sure the information coming from those
satellites is accurate. It’s a process called
vicarious calibration. (Dr Ong) In Australia
we are a huge consumer of observation data for all
sorts of things, from mineral exploration to environment and so knowing that the data is well
calibrated then ensures that the downstream product
is a good product. (Narrator) And how is this
information calibrated? Using a spectrometer
like this one, the team can take on ground
measurements of surface reflection at the same time as a
satellite does an overpass to take the same measurement. The two sets of data
are then compared. Another challenge for researchers
who rely on satellite data is finding a suitable location
to take such measurements. (Dr Ong) So we use
targets such as this, which is Lake Lefroy
a big salt lake, which is actually considered a uniform target. Uniform in terms of flat spectrally
as well as uniform composition, so it’s a big expanse
of salt lake and it’s a bright,
reflectance target. (Narrator) But the problem with
this Western Australian target is that it’s a long way from
any major urban centre. Cue Rover. CSIRO scientists have
developed a prototype to see if they can automate the
process of vicarious calibration. (Dr Elfes) So this
vehicle could, potentially, be
operating here alone and then the scientists that
are interested in the data could be in their home countries in real time looking at the
data that is being collected and then suggesting,
for example, changes. You know, ‘I need the
robot to go back there’. Or ‘there was this signature
here, which was interesting; We need to do a more
detailed analysis here’. (Narrator) As well as
ensuring the accuracy of the current suite
of spaceborne sensors, the information collected
on this mission will also be used for
future satellites. The next generation will be
using hyper-spectral images, essentially, collecting higher
spectral resolution imagery, collecting important information
such as dry woody plant materials and specific mineralogical
information that is not available with
the current satellites. (Dr Lau) High spectral
imagery is often used by the mining industry for
exploring for mineral deposits. We have the ability to look for minerals from airborne imagery
on spaceborne imagery and that gives indications
of whereabouts we can explore for
finding targets. A lot of money is spent in
exploration on drilling and it’s very expensive to
put holes in the ground, so if we can improve the
targeting of those drill holes by looking for mineral deposits, using remote sensing techniques
where we can cover a large area, that can really be a benefit
to the mining industry. (Prof Eyal Ben Dor) You
will be able to actually monitor soil pollution, soil activity and
also help farmers to fertilise the soil according to the exact
amount of fertilisers, not to put more and waste money and not to put less
and then reduce the productivity of the soil. (Narrator) Australia doesn’t
have any of its own satellites, but relies on international
collaborations, like this, for Earth observation data. Our collaboration with
international satellite providers and the Australian government
agencies like GeoScience Australia helps to ensure
more accurate data, leading to efficient, productive and profitable mining
and agricultural industries. [Music plays]