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Because of its ability to provide up-to-date information quickly over a
large area, spaceborne imagery is increasingly being adopted by the
satellite mapping industry. Unlike airborne platforms, satellites maps
provide regular, systematic and synoptic views of all areas of the
globe with a consistent geometry and at a contained cost per square
kilometre, thus enabling effective land monitoring practices and
repeatable cartographic analysis. Problems of access to remote and
restricted areas are also overcome.

Many remote areas of the World are now being opened to exploration
and development, generating a growing demand for up-to-date
knowledge of topography, land cover and other geo-spatial
information. Such knowledge is of great importance for the
management and planning of activities including land-use
development, natural resource exploitation and engineering projects.
And yet statistics provided in 1987 by a United Nations Secretariat
Survey show that more than 40% of the World’s land surface is still
not mapped at a scale of 1:100 000. 1:50 000 scale maps cover just
over 50% of the land area, but only 20% is mapped at 1:25 000 or

The satellite mapping industry worldwide is currently experiencing
rapid technological and organisational change. By using as many
data sources as possible, a more complete and accurate knowledge
of a landscape can be obtained. Therefore, users are seeking to
integrate a multitude of spatially referenced information into their
management and decision-making systems, a step that is facilitated
by the standardisation of digital formats and the rapidly expanding
market of Geographical Information Systems (GISs).

Satellite mapping offers improvements in terms of localisation
accuracy, height determination and level of feature detail that
benefit the whole spectrum of service providers and users. As an
alternative source of data, satellite mapping is established and, in
some sectors, has become the preferred choice. It has now
become a recognised source of topographic information for a range
of applications including Telecoms and Security.

Todays satellite mapping projects rely on several technologies:
Optical remote-sensing data products are used to produce space
maps on a wide range of scales; The SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar)
instrument carried by the European Remote Sensing satellites ERS-1
and ERS-2 has proved extremely valuable in markets dependent on
large-coverage maps; Synthetic Aperture Radar is an active system
that produces images under all weather conditions by analysing the
echoes (C-band) transmitted from the satellite and scattered by the
Earth’s surface; Radargrammetry is based on the correlation of
amplitude SAR images using the same principle as stereoscopy in
photogrammetry and so on.

There are a series of other future missions with potential to improve
satellite mapping. Among them, the PRISM instrument onboard
ALOS (NASDA) will provide 2.5m panchromatic along-track
stereoscopic optical data for global topographic mapping at 1:25 000
scale. Radarsat 2 will continue its predecessor’s legacy with additional
innovative features such as improved resolution and location accuracy.
The French and Italian Pl?iades and Cosmo Skymed constellations will
both provide Very High Resolution data (Optical and Radar) with high
temporal sampling that have a strong potential for cartography and
thematic mapping, whilst the TerraSAR initiative has identified ‘focus
products’, including topographic maps, regional planning aids and
environmental planning tools, to be generated from SAR data.

In the Value Adding sector, the combined use of data from a variety
of EO data sources - the so-called ‘3D Fusion’ methods - promises to
enhance dramatically the accuracy and reliability of topographic
information required in the sector of cartography. By modelling
several independent acquisitions and from different sensors, using all
available data (including platform parameters and ephemeris data),
a complex space triangulation can be achieved to improve the density,
accuracy and reliability of information in the final map product. In this
way, the relative merits of Radar geolocalisation, of radargrammetry
and interferometry, as well as of Optical stereoscopy can be brought

Based on the scope and capabilities of both existing and planned EO
platforms, the satellite map-making industry is likely to make ever-
greater use of remote sensing data in the years to come, as an
indispensable complement to traditional techniques.

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