Monitoring conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region; observation of the drought crisis across the horn of Africa; continued evaluation of Haiti’s earthquake response. It is conflict regions like these that Vancouver-based UrtheCast has agreed to image in support of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
UrtheCast is pleased to announce the signing of an innovative agreement with the UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT). As a part of this agreement, UrtheCast will provide Earth imagery data for the purpose of monitoring humanitarian relief efforts across the globe. This contract will fulfill a key piece of UrtheCast’s vision – a vision that involves leveraging data from the world’s first high-definition (HD) video of Earth from the International Space Station (ISS).
“Having worked with still satellite images for over twelve years, this high-definition near-live video from UrtheCast will make an unprecedented impact on the way we work. We can now have realtime information on dynamic situations such as floods and mass movements of people, as never seen before. The live video also fits nicely into our crowd-sourcing engagements and use of social media. This will be a game-changer in the way we operate!” explains UNOSAT Manager, Francesco Pisano.
“It is amazing to see how the International Space Station can play an important role in supporting humanitarian assistance,” says Frank De Winne, European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut, UNICEF National Ambassador for Belgium, and the first ESA astronaut to command a space mission. “Having spent 188 days on the Space Station and being a UNICEF Ambassador, it is very gratifying to know that this platform – which is bringing together partners from around the world – can help protect and support the most vulnerable people, especially children and women. The ISS and its partnership is truly a contribution to the future of Humanity.”
In early 2013, two cameras built by Rutherford Appleton Laboratories, will be mounted to the Russian segment of the ISS. The imagery and video from these cameras will be downlinked to ground stations across the globe. Once on Earth, this data will be processed into HD video, which will be streamed to users on the web and smartphone networks.
“UrtheCast is very pleased to be working with UNITAR to help improve humanitarian services. This is an important agreement for our team; humanitarian relief monitoring lies at the heart of what UrtheCast envisions for its future,” says UrtheCast President, Scott Larson. “We anticipate that video imaging from space will become a critical component of a new best practices model for monitoring humanitarian relief, tracking human development, and detailing peace-keeping missions. If a relationship with the UN is any indication, formidable agencies are now recognizing the value of video imagery of Earth.”
Since solidifying partnerships with the likes of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., and Rutherford Appleton Labs, a partnership with UNITAR signals one of the final steps in the development of UrtheCast’s unique plan: to provide an interactive Earth video platform for internet users, app developers, educators, media outlets, government bodies, humanitarian relief organizations, and environmental monitoring services.
“The fact that this partnership is being established so early in UrtheCast’s lifespan really shows how powerful the possibilities of this platform are,” says UrtheCast’s Chief Technology Officer, George Tyc. “It’s going to allow us to hit the ground running in regards to humanitarian relief and data usage when we launch next year.”
When the UrtheCast cameras are launched, image data will be offered by means of a consumer-centric website. The platform will be open-source, allowing users to create applications for sale on the UrtheCast website. As the Space Station passes over a particular geographic location, video data and imagery will be collected of that area, thereby providing the opportunity for awareness of current events across the globe. As another layer of interactivity, users will be able to track the Space Station along its orbital path.
The UrtheCast cameras are scheduled for launch in early 2013, aboard the Russian Soyuz Mission. The beta version of UrtheCast’s interactive platform will be made available this summer, 2012. To become a beta subscriber, please visit urthecast.com.