Earth observation (EO) imagery in Australia is used for mapping and monitoring vegetation, infrastructure, water, urban development, agricultural development, mining and in a host of other applications.Growth of Australian private industry and government applications using EO data and technologies, is severely restricted by an effective means for government and industry to work in complementary roles. Australia develops world leading solutions in EO areas but has no coordinated EO program and our governments (and increasingly industry) continue to duplicate one another.


Australia is critically dependent on EO data across a broad range of government and industry applications but is highly vulnerable to loss of data supply. We can build a more effectively linked government-research-industry partnership that would remove this vulnerability and enable both Australian governments and industry to grow significantly. At present there significant overlap in the acquisition, processing and distribution of data, and the transition from public access to for profit activities. This proposal establishes a public-private partnership to develop and implement EO data collection, storage and analysis distributed across all levels of government and industry with clearly articulated paths to open access and commercial access. The partnership could take the form of a private-public agency that sits across commonwealth to state agencies and can act as a private company, with a 3-8 person office to start the process and cover all project wrangling and administration, with two coordination positions for EO science and products. Australia is unfortunately in a unique position in being at the bottom of the rankings of countries who contribute to EO. This proposal would help redress our contribution on the international stage and would make federal, state and local government activities lower risk, grow a significant sector in the economy and would enable new commercial ventures using EO data to be established and enable this to be continue in the long term.

user picture Peter Scarth · 3 years ago · 101 votes · 7 comments
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Another application that doesn't sound as critical at the moment but that will bring problems in the future if measures are not taken is the abuse of fertilisers that later percolate and contaminate the groundwater. This will become more and more important when there is a water shortage and will get worse with the intensification of agriculture which is foreseen.
Lola Suarez · 3 years ago
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I completely agree on trying to bring remote sensing capabilities to the agricultural sector. With the upcoming Nino event and extended drought periods, early measures on saving water for agricultural use are critical. There is a need for irrigation management at both catchment and field scale. That is where government and catchment authorities need to be actively involved with crop/grassland managers associations and facilitate the adoption of measures.
Lola Suarez · 3 years ago
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There are some real opportunities to leverage off investments in the EO science and High Performance Computing infrastructures through coordinated investment in commercial cloud-based applications. There examples of these capabilities already being developed. The challenge is no longer a technical one. The challenge is getting government and industry in the EO domain, and most importantly the application domains to work together. It's got to be focused on growing adoption in areas like agriculture, and Environmental management for the people actually managing our landscapes.
Philip Tickle · 3 years ago
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This is a great idea Peter. I'd like us to consider how this kind of technology could be better utilised to make informed decisions in areas like agriculture.
Rebecca Trevithick · 3 years ago
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Hi Rebecca. I agree entirely. There are commercial opportunities across many industry segments that could benefit from public-private partnership arrangements. In the agricultural science space, these type of opportunities could be used as part of precision agriculture programs to maximise production whilst maintaining sustainable industries.
Peter Scarth · 3 years ago
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Thanks Denis. There are many commercial, meteorological, scientific and national EO satellites each with differing capabilities. A very good review is given in a recent paper by Belward <http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2014.03.009> where it is clear Australia is “lost in space” being one of the few countries that have not launced an EO satellite. Many of the recent significant EO data, such as the US Landsat program and the European Sentinel series of satellites are being made freely available as raw imagery. Some of the high spatial resolution data makes its way into the public domain through Google, Bing and other providers as visual backdrops. But we would really like to encourage is long term sustained innovation in this area, linking the excellent research coming out of our universities, CSIRO and government departments with the operational and agile requirements of industry. To create information products from the raw imagery that supports the needs of agriculture, environmental management, compliance, national security and more. To build this requires policies that articulate and facilitate the linkages across government, research and industry and demonstrate to the global community that Australia is a lifter, not a leaner in this area.
Peter Scarth · 3 years ago
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Peter what about the existing imagery offered by satellite providers or even google? I'm assuming satellite is expensive and google is not sufficiently up-to-date? How about all the drones available? Would a crowd-sourced drone type EO work? (I know the big miners are using them). I see value, you've got a vote from me.
Denis M · 3 years ago
People who voted for this idea
Rebecca Trevithick Zoltan Batfish Amity Scarth Matt Nethery Simon Bodorkos Denis M Arnold Dekker Jessica Milton Angus Trevithick Paul Scarf matilda thomas Matt Paget Phil Delaney Ian Lau John Ableton Lola Suarez Stuart Phinn Lisa T Peter Scarth Philip Tickle andrew McNeill Robert Woodcock Juan Pablo Guerschman