The Lodos winds and the Sahara

Dust from the Sahara Desert sweeps over the Mediterranean sea and into Turkey.

On February 1st 2015 Western Turkey and Greece experienced something quiet surreal, a strong south-westerly wind that was so strong that it produced large waves, damaged buildings and had many flights grounded in both countries. This wind which the local Turks call Lodos, literary meaning “southern wind” is a common occurrence and can happen as many as twenty times a year, sometimes with debilitating results.

Although it produces a great deal of turbulent waters in the Mediterranean and even in parts of the Black Sea it on occasion picks up dust from the Sahara desert in Africa. This dust is often carried as far north as Southern Ukraine and is very mineral rich. Although the minerals have been stated to be very beneficial to plant life in the area, prolonged exposure to humans can cause headaches, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases. At its hight the dust cloud can cripple urban centres as visibility drops to near blinding and all major transport is halted, this includes planes, trains, cars and even sea vessels. At times the Bosphorus Strait is even closed off till the winds and dust subside.

The below images captured by the MODIS instrument on board the Aqua satellite showing the extent of the dust stretching across the Mediterranean Sea and over Greece and Turkey.

The dust cloud can be clearly seen here over the Mediterranean Sea. Image courtesy of NASA.


The dust cloud highlighted in shades of orange. Image courtesy of NASA.

More images of the event can be seen on NASA’s Worldview website here.

If you would like to know more about Scantherma’s remote sensing services you can drop by our Perth office where one of our technicians will be glad to assist, or alternatively you can visit the remote sensing section of our website here.

FLOCK of Doves

Planet Labs, a relatively new private satellite company based in San Francisco has launched 28 Doves into space. Why would anyone release doves into space you may ask. Well these are no ordinary doves, they are micro imaging satellites.


Doves in Space.


In January this year Planet Labs sent the small “Flock” of their satellites on board the Antares rocket to rendezvous with the ISS (International Space Station). In February they were launched into orbit. Flock 1 as the 28 satellites are collectively named is currently the largest constellation of satellites in orbit. Including Flock 1, Planet Labs has 71 small satellites in various orbits around the Earth.


First two Planet Labs “Doves” are deployed from their container on board the ISS.



Closer look at Planet Labs’ Doves leaving Nanoracks deployment container.



More Doves in space.

For over 4 decades the Landsat mission has been keeping a close eye on Earth, taking images of the entire globe every 7 to 8 days. Now Planet Labs hopes to take it to the next level starting with Flock 1. In the near future there will be many of these “Flocks” of satellites in multiple orbits surrounding the Earth made up of hundreds of individual satellites thus enabling the daily capture of imagery. That’s the image of the entire Earth updated every day. The daily image updates would have many applications not fully satisfied with the current serving orbital image missions.




A dove cube nano-satellite with custom artwork. All the Doves will have original artwork on the body.

Another great advantage of the “Dove” satellites is that they are very cost effective. In fact they’re cheap enough to be expendable. This means that the satellites can be deployed as the design and system is still under development and improvement. This drastically cuts down on the cost and time that usually goes into R&D and the stringent testing of satellites before launch.


28 Doves make up “Flock 1”. All ready for launch.



Digital Globe’s Worldview 3 Launched

Digital Globe’s WorldView-3 multi-spectral Earth observation satellite was successfully launched on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on August 13th. Taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California the Atlas 5 rocket carried the nearly 3 tonne satellite into a polar sun-synchronous orbit at about 629 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.

Launch of Atlas AV-014 ICO G1

Digital Globe’s WorldView-3 blasting off on board the Atlas 5-401 rocket.

It’s the 10th of 15 launches planned by United Launch Alliance for 2014, and quite an exciting one at that as Worldview-3 is the first satellite to provide high-res multi-spectral imagery for commercial use and is designed to be operational for a minimum of 7.5 years.


Video of the Atlas 5 launch.

Earlier this year the US Department of Commerce approved a request by Digital Globe to make its ultra-sharp 25cm resolution imagery available for commercial use. Something that was previously only available to the US government and military. This new policy enables Digital Globe to provide 46cm resolution imagery immediately from its satellites currently in orbit, the GeoEye-1 and WorldView-2 satellites. The policy was however accompanied with a requirement, that Digital Globe is to wait until six months after WorldView-3 is fully operational before it can start offering the satellite’s 30cm resolution imagery to commercial costumers.

If you would like more information on the WorldView-3 satellite please follow the links below.

Scantherma_Icon_PNG                 Our WorldView-3 blog

Ball            Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp

ULA logo     United Launch Alliance




Digital Globe’s World-View 3

WorldView-3 prepared and ready for launch

Ball Aerospace’s WorldView-3 satellite has arrived at the Vandenberg Air Force Base ready for launch. It has gone through and passed a full suite of environmental, functional and performance tests in preparation for integration with the launch vehicle, an Atlas 5  Rocket, along with thorough pre-ship reviews by Ball Aerospace and DigitalGlobe. Slated for launch in mid August 2014 it will settle to a final orbital altitude of 617 km above the Earth. It’s the newest of Digital Globe’s orbital remote sensing platforms and the youngest in the WorldView family after WorldView 1 and 2.

The Atlas 5 Launch platform (rocket) ready for take off.

Combined Technologies

There is much excitement surrounding this launch as WorldView-3 has a few new tools in it’s belt.  Ball Aerospace have combined the knowledge and technologies gained through the development and successful launch of  WorldView -1 and -2, QuickBird, QuikSCAT, ICESat, CloudSat, NPP, and Radarsat to develop this new platform. It will be the first multi-payload, super-spectral, high-resolution commercial satellite for earth observations and advanced geospatial data.

WorldView-3 will be collecting imagery at 31 cm panchromatic resolution, 1.24m multi-spectral resolution, 3.7m short-wave infrared (SWIR) resolution, and 30m CAVIS resolution. All this would not be possible if not for the 1.1m aperature telescope (built by Exelis) that allows it resolutions not achievable by smaller satellites.

Worldview-3 satellite pre-launch diagnostics and tests at Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp lab


 Great news for Remote Sensing

Up until recently Digital Globe was only licensed to sell imagery of less than 50 cm panchromatic, 2.0m multi-spectral, or 7.5 meter SWIR resolution to the US Military. Now it has been permitted to provide images of up to 25cm (panchromatic) and 1.0m (multi-spectral) to all its customers. Image resolution and clarity that has not been seen before in the commercial market. This high resolution satellite imagery will be available approximately six months after WorldView 3 becomes operational.

If you would like to know more about satellite imagery and Scantherma’s remote sensing services please visit our remote sensing page or drop in to our Perth office during business hours.




The search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370; an image engineering approach

Scantherma will be holding a presentation for Engineers Australia to showcase its methods using different image engineering to assist with the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. The presentation will be held at the Engineers Australia WA Division in West Perth. Details to follow:


On the 8th of March 2014, Malaysian Flight MH370 disappeared. What followed was an un-precedent search effort involving over a dozen countries and a combined search area of over 1/10th of the Earth’s surface. At no time in modern aviation has there been such a myriad of facets in the use of technology in finding an aircraft. Scantherma was tasked  to use its “object-based image analysis” (OBIA) algorithms to comb through hundreds of satellite images containing potential wreckage in the southern Indian Ocean. This proved to be a new approach in utilising image engineering to a totally different audience. After more than 3 weeks of analysis, the search using satellite imagery was abandoned. However, the exercise proved extremely useful in not only identifying new OBIA methods; but also its application towards oceanic remote sensing in general.

Image showing velocity of currents in the eastern Indian Ocean. Overlayed is the  search areas analysed by satellite imagery over 3 weeks in March and April, 2014. The input of current velocity and direction was crucial in setting up algorithms for the use of OBIA. [Source: Scantherma 2014]

Image showing velocity of currents in the eastern Indian Ocean. Overlayed is the search areas analysed by satellite imagery over 3 weeks in March and April, 2014. The input of current velocity and direction was crucial in setting up algorithms for the use of OBIA. [Source: Scantherma 2014]

Software Used
  • Trimble eCognition
  • Mappt
  • ER Mapper
  • QGIS
  • Christian Hoffmann (Trimble)
  • Trevor Marshall
  • Michael Breen
  • JJ Rodrigues

Perth remote sensing firm on MH370 mission

By Liam Croy [Story as it appeared in The West Australian – 3rd of April, 2014]

A Perth remote sensing company has been tasked with finding the wreckage of MH370. Welshpool-based Scantherma applies its mapping and imaging technologies across a range of residential, commercial, agricultural and resources projects. From iron ore exploration in the jungles of West Africa to energy efficient homes in Perth, Scantherma’s capabilities are diverse in nature and scale.

Chief executive Amir Farhand and his 11 staff do the bulk of their work in the resources industry, where they have teamed with BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and the world’s largest iron ore producer, Brazilian corporation, Vale.

They are currently working with Samsung C&T on the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara. But after a “serendipitous” meeting at a recent mining expo in Hong Kong, Scantherma took on its biggest and most unique challenge yet.

“We were contacted by a very large insurance company which might have a big bailout because of this missing plane,” he said.

The Perth company was commissioned to use its “object-based image analysis” software to comb through hundreds of satellite images containing potential wreckage. They analysed 437 images of debris in the original southern Indian Ocean search area, before shifting their focus north-east last Wednesday based on ocean current data. Two days later, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority announced a new 319,000sq km search area in the same region.

“There was plenty of debris in those first 437 images but it wasn’t from the plane,” he said. “It was mostly white caps and sea junk. Global shipping lanes pass through that area to the south of Western Australia.

“What (AMSA) is doing is terrific because they’ve only got finite resources. Our stuff is done on computer but it takes four hours just for the planes to get out there.

“It’s just such a vast area. We’re in mining so we say it’s like trying to find Lasseter’s Reef.”

Mr Farhand said the insurance company was expected to call off the search this weekend when the plane’s black box was due to run out of battery. But for now, four US and Japanese satellites are scanning a search area nearly four times larger than AMSA’s site.

He said Scantherma’s chief remote sensing analyst was stationed in Florianopolis, Brazil, ready to identify any signs of MH370 in the next set of images.

“It’s been incredible. Most of the work we do is for mining companies, so it’s been terrific to be able to use this technology for a humanitarian purpose,” he said. “As a society, I think we need to embrace these types of technologies more.”

Original Article

Landsat Satellites catch deforestation red handed

Illegal deforestation can no longer remain hidden

The World’s forests are shrinking at an alarming and uncontrollable rate. There are of course a wide rage of causes ranging from cleared land for farming and ranching to mining and timber cultivation. Many of these take place within the some times thin and dotted boundaries of local and international law, but there are so many that slip past and go unseen. Thanks to the ever advancing technology of remote sensing these areas of illegal deforestation are slowly emerging out of the fog of corruption and ignorance.

Below images show a section of the Amazon forest near Tamshiyacu in Peru being illegally cleared for Palm Oil plantation. Many areas of the Amazon basin are completely cleared each year to make room for Palm, Soya and other plantations destroying entire ecosystems and endangering the survival of many plant and animal species, some of which have not yet been formally discovered.

The Palm trees planted are by no means a viable replacement for the natural habitat lost to hundreds of species and after cultivation Soya plantations just expand having depleted all the nutrients in the ground making the land completely useless. There are ways to make the land fertile again after the plantations have moved on but at great costs.



Tamshiyacu Peru showing the Amazon River on the left of the image. Landsat Image acquired October 5, 2012.


The same area as above showing the massive deforested area to the right. This area has been cleared to make way for an Oil Palm plantation. Landsat Image acquired August 28, 2013.

The Palm Oil industry has already left a great scar on the face of some of Earths most important and diverse rain-forests in Malaysia and Indonesia. Now the Palm Oil boom has started in Brazil and with carefully controlled sustainable cultivation it can greatly benefit the local industry and people as it should. If planted on the degraded pasture land that is becoming increasingly plentiful, oil palm could generate more jobs and higher incomes for locals than the dominant form of land use in the region: low intensity cattle ranching. Rather than destroying more rain-forest for more cattle pasture, local farmers could go into the oil palm business and benefit from its higher returns.

In the end education is key. Teaching the local peoples of affected countries how best to utilize the resources of their lands to prosper and advance, at the same time safe keeping it for future generations.

To find out more about Scantherma’s remote sensing services and how it can help your project please go here.

Landsat 8. Seeing the world change

The Earth is constantly changing and never before were we able to see it in such detail. For the past 4 decades the Landsat mission has been giving us invaluable Earth imagery. Now with Landsat 8 (formally Landsat Data Continuity Mission) images are streaming back to earth in greater detail and resolution.

Below are some examples of the vast amount of satellite imagery that can be found on the USGS website.

Scantherma Landsat8 lake Urmia_Small

Lake Urmia receding over time. Images were taken by Landsat 5 and Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Scantherma Landsat8 Bahr al Milh_Small

Lake Bahr al Milh receding over time. Images were taken by Landsat 5, Landsat 7 and Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Scantherma Landsat8 Cambodia Flooding_Small

View of the 2013 Flooding in Cambodia. Images were taken by Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Scantherma Landsat8 Grand Canyon_Small

View of the the water level on Lake Mead in 2013. Images were taken by Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Scantherma Landsat8 Mississippi Flooding_Small

View of the 2013 Mississippi River Floods subsiding. Images were taken by Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Landsat 8 officially started operating May 2013 when the satellites operations was transferred from NASA to USGS (United States Geological Survey). Along with this hand over the name of the mission was changed from Landsat Data Continuity Mission to Landsat 8. The USGS now manages the satellite flight operations team within the Mission Operations Center, which remains located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Find the above and many more images taken by the Landsat mission satellites at high-resolution at

 If you’re after satellite imagery for commercial use Scantherma has high grade acquisition and image processing services. Images can be sourced from any commercial satellite, such as Landsat mission satellites and we can cater for most budgets with quick turn around. Visit the Remote Sensing section of the Scantherma website for more information.

ESA launches PROBA-V Satellite

When you hear of a satellite being launched what pictures come to mind? Probably something like this.

Launch of Delta IV NROL-65, August 28, 2013 from Vandenberg Air Force Base

Well that may be so. But never judge a book by its cover, or in this case size.

Now the European Space Agency has launched the PROBA-V, the newest in the PROBA series  of mini-satellites to monitor Earth’s vegetation.

This duty had, for the past 15 years been given to the SPOT-4 and SPOT-5 satellites, both much larger than PROBA-V.

spot4 Satellite

SPOT-4 Satellite in orbit

ESA launched this washing machine sized survey satellite on May 6th 2013 along with two other satellites in the same launch vehicle, the VEGA rocket. The first one being Vietnam’s VNREDSat Earth observation mission and the second Estonia’s ESTCube-1 student nano-satellite, to test electric solar sail technology.


Scamtherma Proba-V_on_Vespa_adapter

Proba-V sits on top of the VEGA launch adapter which contains the other two satellites. VNREDSat and ESTCube-1.

The VEGA VV02 Rocket ready for launch

It’s daily routine consists of orbiting the Earth 14 times and capturing vegetation data with it’s 100m resolution camera. Every 10 days it will output a 200,000 megapixel image of the Earth’s vegetation.


World Vegetation as captured by PROBA-V

As mentioned above this sort of data collection was and is to some degree done by the Vegetation 1 and Vegetation 2 sensors on the SPOT-4 and SPOT-5 satellites. But these sensors will be unavailable. To replace them ESA is developing a new series of satellites called Sentinel under the Copernicus program, previously called GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security).

Altogether 5 are being developed and Sentinel 3 will be taking on most of the duties of SPOT-4 and 5, and more. But these satellites will not be ready in time, so in order to breach the gap and have continuous collection of data  ESA decided to develop a small satellite mission based on the much successful PROBA design.

PROBA-V is designed and developed entirely in Belgium using state of the art technologies and will be “holding the fort” till ESA launches Sentinel 3 next year.

Scantherma ESA-PROBA-V

PROBA-V ready for business

If you would like to know more about satellite imagery and Scantherma’s remote sensing services please visit our remote sensing page or drop in to our Perth office during business hours.