Using Satellites for Disaster Relief Operations in the Philippines: How Space Data is Helping Mitigate Natural Hazards
The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, regularly experiencing natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides. These natural hazards can cause significant damage to infrastructure, homes, and livelihoods, constantly impacting the country’s economy and society. However, the Philippines is making significant strides in using space data to combat and mitigate the effects of natural disasters.
Finding space solutions
The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA), the primary agency tasked with implementing the Philippine Space Program, aims to promote space technology’s peaceful use and development for national development- particularly in disaster risk reduction and management, climate change, and agriculture. The agency has recognized the potential of space technology to provide valuable information for disaster management and mitigation and has set out to develop technologies and techniques for this purpose.
As the country is particularly vulnerable to typhoons, which can cause significant damage and loss of life, one of the more critical applications of space data is using satellite imagery to monitor and predict weather patterns. Using satellite data can provide valuable information about typhoons’ movement, intensity, and path, which can help government agencies and communities prepare and respond to the threat.
Replica of Diwata-2. Photograph from UP Media and Public Relations Office, 2018
A Homegrown Response to Disaster Management
In 2018, the Diwata-2 microsatellite was launched- equipped with enhanced spatial resolution cameras that can be used for environmental monitoring. Built-in a cooperation between the Philippines (the University of the Philippines and the Department of Science and Technology’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute) and Japan (Tohoku University and Hokkaido University), It is the second microsatellite launched by the Philippines. The data from Diwata-2 can be used to improve weather forecasting and monitoring of typhoons, allowing government agencies to issue timely warnings and prepare for emergency response. In addition to weather forecasting, satellite data can provide valuable disaster response and recovery information. Using satellite imagery can help identify areas affected by natural disasters, allowing government units to prioritize relief efforts and allocate resources more efficiently. It can also be used to assess damage to infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, and to identify areas that need repair. The Diwata-2 is also equipped with a radio payload, enabling messages to be relayed through amateur radios during disasters.
Reef monitoring capture from press release
Satellite data can also provide valuable information for managing the effects of natural disasters on the environment. For example, it can monitor deforestation and forest degradation, which can lead to landslides and other natural hazards. It can also be used to monitor the impact of natural disasters on coastal ecosystems, fisheries, and changes in vegetation. Diwata-2 is set to complete its fifth and projected final year of mission in 2023 while continuing to orbit the Earth at 602.8 km altitude with a speed of 7.560 km/s. Throughout the year, the satellite will capture thousands of additional images to aid in environmental monitoring and disaster response and management. Moreover, using its SMI payload, the satellite is expected to cover the remaining 5.97% of the country’s landmass next year.
Space data is fast becoming a critical component of disaster management in the Philippines. As space technologies continue to prove valuable in these circumstances, the young space agency now has a resource that can be utilized for novel applications where the sky is no longer the limit. With the Philippine Space Agency continuing to advance its capabilities, encouraging local stakeholders to use space data, and collaborating with other countries and organizations, it holds a positive outlook for delivering valuable solutions and technologies that can enhance the lives and welfare of Filipinos grappling with natural calamities.
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