Infrastructure monitoring using satellite data. Tasks are cost and lack of human resources [WARP STATION Conference Vol.1 Report ②]

We will deliver a digest of the conference event “WARP STATION Conference Vol.1” held on October 8th. Following Session 1 discussing the contributions of the space industry in the context of sustainability, we will listen to the voices of each industry.

The theme of Session 2 is “Utilization of satellite data to change infrastructure monitors”.

The aging of social infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and water and sewage systems, which were constructed intensively during the period of high economic growth, is serious. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, 63% of bridges, 42% of tunnels, and 21% of sewer pipes are 50 years old, which is said to have a general useful life in 2033. Inspection and repair are urgent. However, there is also the problem that it takes enormous cost and time to inspect social infrastructure. Therefore, infrastructure monitoring using satellite data is attracting attention.

We invited two people who have experience in infrastructure monitoring using satellite data as panelists and asked about the results and advice for those who are planning to work on it in the future.

7% of water is missing … Approximately 260 leaks detected by introducing satellite data

“The job of the Water Department is to supply clear and safe water 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You may take it for granted that water is clear. Water pipes are easy to rust. And if you mess with the valve, muddy water may come out. We take great care not to cause any inconvenience to the citizens, “(Mr. Okada).

This is Mr. Toshiki Okada, who is in charge of water supply maintenance at the Upper and Lower Waterways Bureau in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has mandated inspection of water supply facilities and announced guidelines in September 2020 so that water can be supplied in a stable manner. Among them, it is stipulated that general water pipes should be patrolled twice a year, and aging parts should be patrolled once a month. However, Mr. Okada says that it is difficult to check at this frequency with the current way.

“Currently, there are places where we cannot go to inspections due to limited personnel and budget …” (Mr. Okada)

In addition, it was suspected that about 7% of water could be lost in Toyota City due to the effects of water leaks.

As a measure to overcome such a situation, Mr. Okada is said to have embarked on a leak investigation of water pipes using satellite data in August 2020.

The analysis was commissioned by Israeli software technology venture Utilis. It is a mechanism to analyze the reflection characteristics peculiar to tap water from the satellite image taken by JAXA’s land observation technology satellite “DAICHI-2” and identify the place where there is a possibility of water leakage.

As a result of the investigation, 556 areas were raised as areas where there was a possibility of water leakage, and water leakage was detected in 154 areas and 259 places. Leakage was actually found in 30%. However, it can be said that it is a sufficient achievement that the conventional method of walking around all areas by workers took 5 years, but it was shortened to about 2 months by using satellite data.

Calculate the economic growth rate of developing countries from changes in the night view captured by satellites

Infrastructure monitoring is also important in the context of international cooperation.

Ms.Juri Ishimoto of Metrics Work Consultants, who is involved in the verification of policy effects and the evaluation of developing country support projects, says that she is utilizing the “night view” taken by satellites for her work.

Ms. Ishimoto is an “evaluation expert” who majored in “impact evaluation” to measure the impact of business on society. Why did Mr. Ishimoto decide to use satellite data? The reason for this was the challenges she faced in her previous work at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

At JICA, a small hydroelectric power plant construction project was underway in a town in Cambodia in an attempt to support economic development by supplying electricity in a stable manner. Ms. Ishimoto was in charge of the post-assessment to confirm whether the project was operated as planned after the project was completed.

“The area where the small hydropower plant was built was a very small countryside, and the economic growth rate was not organized in the first place. The problem was that the night light data and the economic indicators are correlated-night light I learned that if there is an increasing trend, economic activity is considered to be active. “(Ms. Ishimoto)

Visualize the economic growth rate by converting night light data into numerical values ​​and graphing them. After the completion of the small hydroelectric power plant, it was found that the night light had increased, and she evaluated that it led to economic growth.

High cost and shortage of human resources are the bottleneck of satellite data utilization

The efforts of Mr. Okada of Toyota City and Ms. Ishimoto of Metrics Work Consultants are one of the few examples of using satellite data for infrastructure monitoring. In the second half of the session, I heard that I felt a challenge in using satellite data.

Mr. Okada pointed out that the cost of satellite imagery is high.

“This time it was a pilot price, so there was a discount, but if I try to do it the second time or later, it will cost a huge amount of money. I feel that it is a bit painful” (Mr. Okada)

Satellite data can capture a wide range at once. In the case of “DAICHI-2” used by Mr. Okada, not only Toyota City but also neighboring local governments can be projected with one image. Mr. Okada thinks that the price of satellite data can be reduced by head-to-head if the survey is conducted in collaboration with other local governments.

Ms. Ishimoto seems to feel that the cost of satellite imagery is a bottleneck.

“JICA’s business uses national blood tax, so the budget is severe. When purchasing expensive satellite data, is there really a merit to use it? Seriously consider how much value can be added. They do it “(Ms. Ishimoto)

In addition, Ms. Ishimoto points out the lack of human resources who can handle satellite data.

“When I was enrolled in JICA, I was in the position of ordering analysis from a consulting company. However, when I asked for it, I was refused” I can’t do it “… There was no one around me who could handle satellite data. So I tried it myself. “(Ms. Ishimoto)

There is an evaluation expert like Ms. Ishimoto, and although the issues have been clarified, there is a shortage of “bridge human resources” who can propose means, saying, “This data can be used.”

Private companies are launching satellites one after another, but the communication required to download the data captured by the satellites on the ground is insufficient. In other words, the capacity that the satellite can shoot is not used up because communication cannot be secured. Many satellite data are cloudy and cannot be analyzed, so the images that can be used are limited.

If the communication environment is set up so that you do not have to worry about communication when setting up a satellite shooting schedule, you will have more data options. As the number of images that can be taken per satellite increases, the price of data is expected to gradually decline. And if an environment where anyone can try satellite data is created, it will be considered for use in business, and it will naturally lead to the development of bridging human resources.

In Session 3 on the theme of agriculture, we invited agricultural workers who are end users of satellite data solutions and businesses that develop solutions to discuss issues and ideas for utilization.

We are startup company started as a project in University of Tsukuba, 2011. We will provide the optical telecommunication service with LEO Sat operator by 2023.