Gazing the Earth from Outer Space: Center for Space and Remote Sensing Protects the National Territory

Oct 22, 2020

Checking the weather forecast on the phone, driving the car with the assistance of GPS, consulting Google Maps… etc., these dairy actions that people get used to are all closely related to satellite remote sensing. 

Due to the widespread use of the Internet, the application of satellite imagery has been implemented in not only military technology but various fields. Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research (CSRSR) of National Central University, one of the pioneers of remote sensing in Taiwan, was interviewed by MOST GASE, revealing how remote sensing technology defends our national territory and shows technology diplomacy. 

Modern All-Seeing Monitoring the National Territory
CSRSR, which devotes to remote sensing, education, and application development, was established in 1984. “Satellite is an important apparatus for remote sensing. Its extensive application includes but not limited to scientific research on engineering and earth science, land use and infrastructure monitoring, business development, 
environmental and ecological conservation, public health support, and disaster prevention, investigation and reduction,” Dr. Fuan Tsai, Director of CSRSR explained.

Natural disasters have become more common due to climate change and extreme weather. Remote sensing can help us keep abreast of the disaster loss without geographical constraints. Take 2018 Hualien Earthquake as an example, CSRSR analyzed the satellite photos at once and observed the extreme deformed surface of both sides of the fault. These data were provided to the government and the academia for disaster relief and research analysis. CSRSR also conducted the flood inundation extent estimation of the Yangzi River basin and analyzed the Three Gorges Dam’s danger in July this year through satellite remote sensing technology.  

3-in-1 Satellite Receiving Station
CSRSR is also one of the few institutions that have a resource satellite data receiving station in Taiwan. Director Tsai pointed out that satellite reception system is one of the most important national information infrastructures. More than 20 years ago, the government has realized the importance of autonomous satellite receiving capability fora more comprehensive data analysis and research application only if there is autonomous satellite receiving capability.

Funded by National Science Council, the resource satellite data receiving station was completed in 1993. Its spectacular 13-meters aerial system has become a landmark of National Central University. The station has 3 functions, naming receiving and rectifying satellite images simultaneously, research development, and education. When the satellite passes by, the receiving station gathers the data immediately. The current receiving data includes SPOT, Pleiades and Formosat-5, which replaced Formosat-2. It can receive around 3,000 kilometers range from Zhongli, covering Guam as the easternmost point, Gansu as the westernmost point, Russia and Hokkaido as the northernmost point, and South China Sea as the southernmost point. The high-resolution of satellite images provided are applied to land use monitoring, disaster reduction and investigation, and environmental change monitoring, etc. The analysis results are provided to more than 100 institutions, including academia, governments and the private sectors.  
Director Tsai also indicated that this receiving station is the pioneer of Asian academic institutions. Plenty of prestigious universities in Asia have visited and referred to CSRSR to establish their own receiving stations, such as Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, National University of Singapore, Hiroshima Institute of Technology and The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The satellite receiving station of CSRSR has also established close partnerships with stations in France, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, the USA and Canada for international collaboration.          

Remote Sensing Technology, Showing Tech Diplomacy
CSRSR is also a node of data research analysis in “Sentinel Asia,” which was established in Japan in 2005 and has collaborated with lots of Space Institutions in Asia-Pacific to collaborate in environmental monitoring and disaster prevention. When there is a disaster in a country, Sentinel Asia will require satellite photos, and the members will arrange the schedules to collect photos and provide the data free of charge.        

In addition to international academic exchange and humanitarian collaboration, CSRSR provides its invaluable remote sensing and GIS technology experience to Central American allies. For instance, it collaborates with Nicaragua to operate the environmental protection plan and use real-time satellite monitoring images to evaluate large-scale natural disaster loss.  

Currently, there is a Fellow Research, Daniel Antonio Laniez, coming from Honduras in CSRSR and has been in Taiwan for 9 years. After obtaining a Master’s Degree in National Central University, he has been working as a researcher in CSRSR. Daniel believes that Taiwan has more academic and research resources comparing to Honduras. Now he is conducting Taiwan-Honduras bilateral research hoping that he can contribute what he has learned in Taiwan to his home country in the future.

▲Dr. Fuan Tsai, Director of CSRSR and his research team.