GENEVA (July 25, 2012) — High-definition streaming video of the Earth will be used to support humanitarian relief in emergencies, environmental monitoring, and development programs benefiting vulnerable communities around the world.
This is the objective of a partnership between the Operational Satellite Applications Program (UNOSAT) of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and UrtheCast, a company providing the world’s first ever, live high-definition video feed of the planet from space.
The live video feed platform will be mounted on the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.
“It is amazing to see how the International Space Station can play an important role in supporting humanitarian assistance,” said European Space Agency astronaut and UNICEF Belgium Ambassador Frank De Winne.
De Winne, who works for the European Space Agency, has been advocating for UNICEF programs since 2003. In 2009, he became the first European astronaut to command an expedition to the ISS.
“Having spent 188 days on the space station, and being a UNICEF Ambassador, it is very gratifying to know that this platform which is bringing together partners from around the world can help protect and support the most vulnerable people, especially children and women,” he said.
When the platform is launched, UNITAR/UNOSAT will work closely with UrtheCast to ensure high definition video is distributed to UN organizations, international organizations, NGOs and other development and relief partners.
Live video has never before been available at this level of detail from space. UNITAR/UNOSAT will ensure access to this information to enhance the efficiency of field operations and to improve capacity development. Through this platform, humanitarian actors will have up-to-date information immediately available during crisis situations.
UrtheCast has also designed its system to interact closely with social media, which will enable crowd-sourcing and citizen interaction.
Citizen interaction can be vital in protecting vulnerable communities. For example, the UNICEF and UNITAR/UNOSAT ‘Map Your School’ initiative enabled children to locate their schools using a simple online map of environmental vulnerabilities, which helped raise communities’ awareness of natural hazards.
Once the video stream is operational, students participating in the ‘Map Your School’ project will have unprecedented access to information about their local environment.
“Adding live video feed to our existing suite of satellite imagery, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) photos and in-field crowd sourced photos brings UNOSAT’s remote-sensing capacity to full circle. It is a real game-changer in the way humanitarian and development actors can access information,” said UNOSAT Senior Specialist Einar Bjorgo. “We are most grateful to UrtheCast for making their live video feed available and we will ensure it gets put to good use among the UNOSAT constituencies.”
The stream will also allow the establishment of a large data archive where individuals and organizations can access historic videos of the planet and its changes.
“The ISS and its partnership is truly a contribution to the future of humanity,” said Mr. De Winne.