From satellite observations to everyday tools

Written by Matti Anttila
Business Development Director, Space and Defence

One of the constantly growing industries in which Huld offers services, is the space industry. We have expertise in space-related software, system design and mechanics.

We have been working on satellite data for over 30 years. In 1989, the European Space Agency (ESA) designed a satellite to explore the environment. This bus-sized ENVISAT satellite studied the ozone layer, among other things. We participated in the creation of the software for the satellite’s ozone instrument and the processing of data on the ground. We surveyed the level of ozone in the atmosphere.

Since then, electronics and the launch of satellites into space have become cheaper, and the need for satellite-based services has increased. We have done many types of work with satellites.

Exploration of the Barents Sea ice

We participated in the Anistiamo project together with the European Space Agency, Norwegian Kongsberg, and Finnish Meteorological Institute. We developed an online portal that allows shipping companies to plan their routes in the icy Barents Sea. The use of Arctic maritime areas is increasing, and shipping companies are exploring the possibility of using the North-East Passage for freight transport. Knowledge of the ice situation brings safety to shipping.

Radar satellites observe the coverage and thickness of sea ice in the Barents Sea. Earth stations in the northern hemisphere receive an updated picture of the ice cover several times a day from satellites. The data is processed and transferred onto the Internet for the use of customers. The portal can also search archive data.

Berth for ship

Just as finding a parking place for cars is sometimes difficult, so is finding a berth for a boat. We developed a machine-learning algorithm that searches for and identifies user-defined objects, which in this case were pier structures, from the European Sentinel-2 satellite image.

The user gives the computer a form that the software looks for in the satellite image. The user can for example give Huld’s software an area next to our headquarters at Keilasatama in Espoo, which has a demarcated pier complex. In a matter of seconds, the program finds all matching piers in the image area and lists them for the operator.

The same could work for buildings, cars, or even boats. The user does not need to know the purpose of the forms: it is enough that their appearance matches the object sought. This way, satellite data is used to map the desired objects.

Space in daily life

The use of space technology is much more common in our daily life than we think. You’ll probably start your morning with an alarm clock that synchronizes its time via a mobile base station from GPS satellites. Weather data is made available via remote mapping data and the car’s navigator operates via satellite location. Examples are plenty. At Huld, we are proud to be involved in securing the functions of society through space technology.

The author is Matti Anttila, Chief Development Officer of Huld’s Space & Defence business, TkT, who has accumulated solid experience in the industry for over 20 years.

Picture © contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

If you are interested in combining satellite and drone observations, read more about visual navigation here.