Satellites have been around for decades and play multiple roles across various industries. There are currently over 2200 active satellites orbiting the planet, with thousands more expected to launch into Earth’s orbit over the next ten or so years. This coincides with the projected demand for satellite data to grow at an annual 30 percent between now and 2025. In addition, the global market of new launch technology for small satellites is expected to exceed £25 billion in value over the next 20 years.
Massive growth clearly awaits the aerospace industry’s satellite sector, and one of the most notable changes is how these crafts will be utilized. Ironically, it seems most satellites under or poised for future deployment will largely be used for terrestrial-related operations instead of space exploration. While this may come as a surprise to most people outside of the industry, future methods of satellite utilization will expand on many current uses aimed at making life livable, convenient, and safe for people across the globe.
Utilizing satellites to monitor agriculture isn’t too new of a concept. Satellites have several uses regarding agriculture that range from monitoring a region’s temperature, weather conditions, and air quality, to coordinating which areas of a farm are being maintained in an effective manner. More than one-third of the world’s land is used for agriculture and with a continually growing population, more time, money, and resources need to be invested in improving productivity.
There are various examples demonstrating how satellites affect the maintenance and production of agricultural products across the world. In Bolivia, a combination of high-tech satellite data and brightly colored cartoons are helping subsistence farmers determine the best times to burn sections of their land with hopes of reducing uncontrolled blazes. Australia developed a national positioning system with accuracy between 2-10 centimeters that will boost their economy by over $70 billion dollars between now and 2040. These investments won’t benefit from higher agricultural exports, but create business opportunities, along with new digital agricultural and aid transitional jobs from sectors of the economy affected by digital disruption.
Over the next several years, more than 4500 more satellites will be deployed into low-Earth orbit with the purpose of enabling global broadband coverage. With technology becoming more mobile and dependency of internet connections on a continual increase, the private sector and governments across the world are making strides to provide wireless access to the broadest number of people possible. Satellites have been a major player in this field, and are key to deploying internet connectivity in isolated or rural regions of the world. SpaceX, for example, is deploying 1600 satellites with the aim of providing internet access across the entire United States.
Another broadband-related front where satellites will have a significant role isthe world’s mobility patterns, especially as we begin the transition from driver-operated to autonomous vehicles. Self-driving vehicles rely on internet-connected GPS systems to reach their destinations, and receive their data from overhead satellites. With the number of autonomous vehicles set to explode over the next several years, this will coincide with a significant increase in utilizing satellites for these purposes.
The main role for satellites (regardless of what industry or project type they’re being used for) is data collection. As mentioned earlier, the majority of future uses for satellites will be focused on terrestrial-based operations. With rising concerns on the alleged effects climate change and human activity may have on our planet, a large focus of satellite data collection will focus on the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere. In the coming years, nearly 400 satellites are expected to be deployed in low to medium orbit for communications services and Earth observation imagery. Over the next decade, it’s estimated this market will produce an annual revenue of $1.6 billion.
New satellite technology designed by Forest Trust and Airbus Defense and Space (a system called Starling) will utilize radar technology and high resolution imagery to ensure plantations abide by moratorium on deforestation. The European Space Agency (ESA) is making huge strides in microsatellite operations with its PROBA (Project for On-Board Autonomy) program. The project already has its first self-navigating satellite in orbit, which can receive and automatically prioritize work requests like climate monitoring, ocean surveys, and other information-gathering from scientists across the globe.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense, Automotive