Satellites and AI can help solve big problems — if given the chance

However, as on Amazon, identifying problem areas only gets you so far if there aren’t enough resources to work on those results. The Nature Conservancy uses its AI model to inform conversations with land managers about potential threats to wildlife or biodiversity. The United States Bureau of Land Management oversees a conservation application in the Mojave Desert, which only about 270 Guards and special agents on duty.

In northern Europe, Iceye has begun monitoring ice buildup in waters near Finland using small satellites and machine learning. But in the past two years, the company has begun predicting flood damage using microwave images that can see through clouds at any time of the day. Shay Strong, Iceye’s vice president of analytics, says the biggest challenge now isn’t engineering spacecraft, data processing, or improving the machine learning models that have become popular. It deals with institutions stuck in centuries-old ways of doing things.

“We can more or less understand where things are going to happen, we can get pictures, we can produce analysis. But the biggest part we have now is working with insurance companies or governments.

“It’s the next step of local coordination and implementation that the action requires,” says Hamid Mohamed, chief data scientist at the nonprofit Radiant Earth Foundation, which uses satellite imagery to tackle sustainable development goals such as ending poverty and hunger. “This is where I think the industry needs more focus and effort. It’s not just about a great blog and deep learning model.”

Often it is not just about engaging policy makers. in 2020 تحليل AnalysisA broad cross-section of academics, government and industry researchers has highlighted the fact that the African continent has the majority of the world’s uncultivated arable land and is expected to account for a significant portion of global population growth in the coming decades. Satellite imagery and machine learning can reduce dependency on food imports and turn Africa into the world’s breadbasket. But they said lasting change will entail mobilizing professional talent with technical knowledge and government support so that Africans can make technology to meet the needs of the continent rather than importing solutions from elsewhere. “The path from satellite imagery to public policy decisions is not straightforward,” they wrote.

Laballe Toure is co-author of that paper and chair of the geospatial department at an agricultural university in Senegal. In this capacity, and as founder of Geomatica, a company that provides automated satellite imagery solutions to farmers in West Africa, he has seen satellite imagery and machine learning help decision makers learn about how salt flow affects irrigation and crop yields. He’s also seen it help settle questions about how long a family can stay on a farm and help with land management issues.

Sometimes free satellite images from services like NASA’s LandSat or the European Space Agency’s Sentinel program are enough, but some projects require high-resolution images from commercial providers, and the cost can be a challenge.

If decision makers know [the value] It could be easy, but if they don’t know, it won’t always be easy,” Torey said.

Back in Brazil, in the absence of federal support, Amazon is now working to establish relationships with more policymakers at the state level. “Currently, there is no evidence that the federal government will lead conservation or deforestation efforts in the Amazon,” Souza says. In October 2022, Amazon signed cooperation agreements with prosecutors to collect evidence of environmental crimes in four Brazilian states bordering the Amazon rainforest to share information that can help prioritize enforcement resources.

When the people who deforested protected land are sued, the damage has already been done. Amazon now wants to use artificial intelligence to stop deforestation before it happens, and a route detection model is intertwined with one designed to predict which communities bordering the Amazon are at risk of deforestation in the next year.

Deforestation continued in Historical rates In early 2022, but Sousa hopes that by working with nonprofit partners, Amazon can expand deforestation to the seven other South American countries that touch the Amazon rainforest.

Brazil will hold presidential elections this fall. The current leader in opinion polls, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is expected to strengthen enforcement agencies weakened by Bolsonaro and re-establish Amazon’s fund for foreign investment in reforestation. Lula’s environmental plan is not expected for a few months, but environment ministers from his previous term are in office pridect Afforestation will make a cornerstone of his platform.

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