Satellite Imagery in Demand after COVID-19 Pandemic; Companies Explore Remote Monitoring Options

Satellite Imagery in Demand after COVID-19 Pandemic; Companies Explore Remote Monitoring Options

Usra's comparison of the historical and recent SAR imagery for the two locations showed a significant decline in activity coinciding with the coronavirus period. New York-based SpaceKnow, another satellite data analytics firm, is monitoring Usra's work and has shown keen interest in data from China

Fremont, CA: There is a growing demand for satellite imagery to gauge the economic impact of the new coronavirus and conduct remote monitoring of facilities and infrastructures. Ithaca- based satellite data and analytics firm, Ursa Space Systems, monitors the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on global oil inventories. The company offers its customers weekly reports on 11,000 oil storage tanks observed using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites.

“Satellite imagery has been invaluable in tracking oil inventories outside the U.S. where public data isn’t available or timely,” said Geoffrey Craig, Ursa global energy analyst. “We’ve noticed a pick-up from clients and prospects interested in Ursa’s oil storage product. Our China coverage, especially, has attracted attention.” Usra is also monitoring a Nissan Motor Corp. plant in Japan and the Wuhan North railway station, the first freight train stop where the virus was first detected in 2019.  

Usra's comparison of the historical and recent SAR imagery form the two locations showed a significant decline in activity coinciding with the coronavirus period. New York-based SpaceKnow, another satellite data analytics firm, is monitoring Usra's work and has shown keen interest in data from China. For over five years, SpaceKnow has tracked more than 6,000 factories in China. Amidst the Coronavirus scare, SpaceKnow has noticed deteriorating industrial output in China.

Along with monitoring economic impact, satellite imagery and analytics has also been helpful in remote monitoring of facilities that have become difficult to reach due to the travel restrictions and government orders to stay at home caused by the pandemic. Canadian software platform for satellite imagery firm SkyWatch has seen an increase in interests towards facility monitoring. The firm has seen significant investment in remote monitoring by customers focused on energy, utilities, construction, renewable energies, and infrastructure.

“A lot of the industries require someone to look at assets at a certain cadence for security or safety,” said Dexter Jagula, SkyWatch chief operating officer. “We’ve definitely seen an increase.” However, it is hard to determine whether the increase is related to COVID-19 or whether companies are just looking for ways to save money by monitoring their assets remotely. San Francisco-based Earth observation company Planet has also made inquiries regarding remote monitoring.

"It's early in this crisis, and businesses are still mapping out solutions to challenges posed by COVID-19," said a Planet spokesman. "That said, we have received inquiries asking to use satellite imagery to collect information about operations and activities in places where sending people might expose them to unnecessary risks. We believe satellite data collection may provide a safe, affordable alternative to other methods of information gathering, potentially making it a critical component to an organization’s business continuity plans. In addition, Planet foresees customers using remote sensing data to monitor the economic impacts of COVID-19, and, in the future, tracking recovery and growth."

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