Extraordinary technology: Satellites can keep your project on track during the pandemic

April 28, 2020 Grant Wiseman

The coronavirus prevents us from physically putting experts in the field, but satellite technology enables our team to monitor projects and maintain schedules

 

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary technology to keep projects on track. Stantec has used satellite technology for our Oil and Gas, Infrastructure and Mining clients for years. In the face of this pandemic, we’re now exploring other ways we can utilize satellites for maintaining project schedules or monitoring operating assets.

While we’re restricted from physically putting experts in the field, utilizing satellite technology now enables our team to monitor projects and maintain schedules without risking unnecessary viral exposure.

 

The Stantec team has a suite of remote sensing technologies. We have the data—and we’re using it from our desktops.

 

How do we pivot from traditional field work to using satellites?

Here’s one example: Our client in the Caribbean is looking to transform a former industrial site into an ecological reserve. To do this, they need to characterize baseline environmental conditions, and we started work to accomplish this goal.

Then COVID-19 hit, international travel was restricted, strict quarantines put in place, and our teams couldn’t get into the field to collect data in the traditional way. But we’ve been able to shift to remote sensing using satellite technology to collect the geospatial data we need to keep the project moving forward.

 

How does this process work?

As I wrote in my previous blog about our PipeWATCH technology, we use satellites to scan the earth’s surface and collect imagery data. With PipeWATCH, we monitor for an accidental release from underground pipelines. The RGB (red, green, blue) and near-infrared images PipeWATCH provides, give us very detailed information about the health and vigor of vegetation on the earth’s surface. We can download the images and calculate vegetation health indices at a specific time. The next time satellites scan that section, we generate updated vegetation health values and perform a change detection analysis. If we see a drop in the health of the vegetation that raises a red flag, as it could be due to a contaminant release.

_q_tweetable:While satellite technology is particularly useful during this pandemic, your project will benefit from remote sensing even when we emerge into the post-pandemic new normal._q_PipeWATCH is just one remote sensing solution. Another is WireWATCH. When vegetation encroaches on power lines, the results—such as line outages and wildfires—can be costly and dangerous. Utilities often use traditional methods—ground surveys, aerial reconnaissance, customer reports—to identify problem spots, but these are labor intensive, expensive, and not feasible in a time of pandemic.

WireWATCH processes satellite data—satellite images can easily identify heavy vegetation within utility corridors—and displays results in an easy-to-use web portal, updating entire right-of-way networks as frequently as every few days.

Yet another remote sensing technology is Surface Subsidence and Uplift Measurement (SSUM). SSUM leverages Interferomic Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) imagery—a technique for mapping the ground—to detect vertical elevation changes down to a millimeter. InSAR can see through clouds, haze, smoke, and snow to monitor landslides, mining tailing dams, permafrost, infrastructure, roads, runways, and more. This global historical database of imagery is refreshed at least every 12 days, so when we can’t put traditional survey teams into the field with their GPS equipment, we can use SSUM.

We have a robust suite of remote sensing technologies. We have the data—and we’re using it, from our desktops. And there are even more ways to leverage satellites to help clients who have seen their projects delayed or come to a standstill during this global pandemic.

 

Our Remote Sensing services are available right now. Technology application depends on the needs, scope, and scale of your project.

 

Construction monitoring

Clients want to know how their projects are progressing, but they don’t want to send staff into the field unnecessarily. In these difficult times, drone procurement is challenging; it’s even more challenging to find planes and pilots to mobilize into the field. Satellites can provide high-resolution imagery to monitor large, complex infrastructure projects.

For example: Our potential client is looking to install a 400-plus-kilometre long pipeline. That’s a large area of construction to monitor. They need to know where their stockpiles of materials are located, where the pipeline stacks are located, and they want to know where construction is taking place, and where their construction crews are in the pipeline right of way. We can deliver all that information using satellites with a resolution up to 30 centimetres. In fact, using satellite technology can enable us to monitor and report on the entire life cycle of infrastructure projects, from baseline work to construction, to operations, remediation, and monitoring.

 

Vegetation monitoring

We’re also hearing from many clients who want to shift to satellite technology for vegetation monitoring. For large construction projects, you are likely required to restore surrounding vegetation to its preconstruction state, and you need to monitor the health and vigor of that vegetation. Using the same technology we utilize for PipeWATCH, we can monitor the health of the restored vegetation daily—and quickly report results relative to the plan. Everything we do is quantifiable, scientifically repeatable, and provides statistical proof to regulatory authorities.

 

We can use satellites to help clients who have seen their projects delayed or come to a standstill during the global pandemic.

 

Greenhouse gas monitoring

We’ll soon also have the capability to use satellites to monitor for greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial clients want and need to be good environmental stewards while minimizing loss, and environmental regulations limit the amount of pollutants these industries can emit. Using hyperspectral gas signature signals, satellite technology can identify methane emissions in an area as small as 50 metres by 50 metres.

 

Technology for now and the future

Our Remote Sensing services are available right now. Technology application simply depends on the needs, scope, and scale of your project. Earth-observation technology will help us to gather the critical environmental data we need, without the risk of putting our scientists in the field during the current coronavirus outbreak. While satellite technology is particularly useful during this pandemic, your project will benefit from remote sensing even when we emerge into the post-pandemic new normal.

About the Author

Grant Wiseman

Grant Wiseman is a remote sensing specialist working in our Winnipeg, Manitoba, office. Grant has worked around the globe and utilizes many types of remotely sensed imagery from ultra violet light and thermal energy to synthetic aperture radar.

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