Leveraging satellite technology to detect aviation obstacles


Creotech Instruments S.A. has recently completed the first stage of the SAMPLE project, which will see the company develop an innovative obstacle detection and monitoring system. The system’s primary function is the detection and classification of obstacles in the immediate vicinity of airports and landing sites in accordance with the specific requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The solution can automatically generate data on aviation obstacles and terrain topography based on high-resolution satellite imagery, data obtained by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and permanent CCTV cameras. SAMPLE is a joint effort between Creotech Instruments S.A., the consortium leader, AP-Tech and the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA). The project seeks to prioritize obstacle detection, safety parameters and flight path optimization, leading to fuel savings, as well as noise and CO2 emissions reduction.

The system will offer eTOD (eTOD – electronic Terrain and Obstacle Database) capabilities based on photogrammetric methods, as well as facilitate ongoing air traffic analysis and automatic obstacle-related incident detection.

SAMPLE will leverage proprietary algorithms and machine learning methods based on neural networks to offer superior data processing and object classification capabilities. Obstacle data will be used in an advanced analytical module, enabling risk determination and incident monitoring and notification through the system’s air traffic monitoring function.

“So far, we have developed an obstacle methodology concept involving the use of optical and radar satellite imagery. We also finalized efforts on sourcing UAV data to develop a 3D map of aviation obstacles,” said Grzegorz Brona, president of the Management Board of Creotech Instruments S.A. “Now, we will move to optimize and automate the obstacle detection process and deliver an analytical and monitoring module,” he added.

All works had been preceded by a thorough analysis resulting in the delivery of detailed solutions ensuring the envisaged object mapping accuracy of obstacles above 15m high and with a diameter of 1m and more. At its current stage, SAMPLE offers height measurement accuracy using satellite imagery of at least 3m with sub-1m positioning accuracy. Moreover, as part of the work on the UAV data sourcing methodology, the company developed a direct overflight technique enabling the detection of tall objects with a diameter above 0.03m and determining their height with 1m accuracy. This method allows for a positioning accuracy of 0.1m and 1m with and without photo control points, respectively.


Fig. Creotech Instruments. Shadow analysis based on satellite images after rasterization (EPWA area).


Studies were performed based on archive optical and satellite data, as well as data collected between March and August 2021 for the purposes of the project. The studies also leveraged results obtained during UAV overflights performed in May and June over selected test sites.

The Creotech Instrument-led project is financed by the National Research and Development Center (NCBR).

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