Two of my worlds are converging and it just might make history.
I’m an old military guy with a passion for emerging technologies such as remote sensing and AI that help assure peace and security at home and abroad.
My military career took me around the world, which I loved but it was the pull of New Brunswick’s woods and rivers that always drew me home. I feel a deep connection to the land, which is why I am happiest puttering around my cottage in rural New Brunswick managing my “little slice of heaven”. In fact, some of the 40 year old, hand milled local lumber that came with the property has been shaped into desks and Terris’s boardroom table.
Over the years I’ve observed changes to the land and local wildlife, some caused by human activity and some caused by larger forces, such as changing weather patterns.
A global environmental shift is underway and how we respond both home and abroad will have a sizeable impact on our collective peace and security.
Defense departments in a number of countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, and New Zealand have been using remote sensing and other technologies to analyze climate and environmental changes as it relates to national security for well over a decade.
Earlier this year Canada announced it will create a NATO centre of excellence for the study of climate and security. Learning how to integrate machine learning, AI and remote sensing for conservation and climate change efforts should be central to its mission.
As any good commander knows, there is a pattern to strong and effective decision-making. Military folks know it as the OODA loop, an acronym that stands for observe, orient, decide, and act.
The ever-increasing clarity, accessibility and affordability of high-resolution satellite imagery is strengthening our collective ability to conserve, protect and rehabilitate ecosystems and species at risk.
AI and remote sensing for conservation helps in three important ways.
First, those eyes in the sky that provide a level of real-time monitoring, formerly reserved for national security forces, are now available to commercial, non-profit, and public sector entities. As Norm wrote recently, technological advances in satellites and near-earth imagery have accelerated space-based investments, and all that activity is increasing supply and demand, lowering costs for both producers and purchasers.
Not only are we seeing a growth in the amount of imagery, even more impressive is the clarity of those images. Those grainy aerial photos of the past have been replaced with super-clear images that enable viewers to not only see vehicles but identify whether they’re looking at a Camry or a Corvette.
Second, that clarity, coupled with the amount of earth observation data being produced gives decision-makers a rich and ever-growing body of data with which to mine for insights. This is critically important in the field of conservation and environmental security because it enhances understanding of an ecosystem and how various elements within it intersect, interact and change. Earth intelligence enables decision-makers to quickly assess and analyze any place on earth, giving them an accurate and complete view of their field of interest.
Better data means better, faster decision-making, which leads to the third way earth observation technology can enhance conservation and environmental security.
It enables data-informed action, such as stronger, more focused policy development, land use planning and rehabilitation, development siting, and, in the case of bad actors, stronger enforcement and protection.
That’s how our eyes in our skies can help those of us with our boots on the ground secure the health and conservation of this shared land we call home.