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test of the experimental system. The system will be tested during the
1978 crop year.
Department's New and Increased Emphasis on
This Department, at the direction of Secretary Bergland, is reexamining its requirements for information about the world's natural resources, both renewable and nonrenewable. A Department working group has developed a listing
of the broad kinds of information, potentially supportable by aerospace technology, which are needed by the Department to carry out its missions. These requirements were then assigned priorities based on perceived immediacy of need. In priority order the requirements are:
1. Early warning of changes affecting production and quality of
The group is now examining the component parts of these broad information requirements, and is conducting an inventory of the Department's research, testing, and development (RD&T) projects which address the use of aerospace-acquired data. This inventory, when completed, should provide a basis for the development of a coordinated effort among USDA, NASA, and
other interested agencies to develop and test new technologies which
exploit space-acquired data.
The new program mentioned earlier which will follow LACIE, is a significant step in learning as much as possible about the feasibility of applying of space technology to this Department's information problems.
While LACIE experimentation was limited to forecasting wheat production, the new program will extend its efforts to developing, testing, and evaluating methodology for assessing condition and forecasting production of additional important world crops and regions. This new program will concentrate primarily on the Department's Number 1 and 2 priorities as they relate to agricultural crops, and will provide a basis for future Departmental decisions on the use of space-acquired data. The program will utilize data from the current and planned Landsats and meteorological satellites. It must be recognized, however, that this program will deal with agricultural crops only. It will not directly address information needs for other renewable resources, such as forests and rangeland. Also, the LACIE follow-up program is only one of a number of significant Department remote sensing related activities. Planning teams are now establishing crop and country priorities for the program, and defining research objectives, criteria, and schedules.
It is anticipated that other USDA agencies will review the Remote Sensing RD&T programs within their purview in light of the Department's stated requirements. These reviews would be conducted as time, resources, and planning horizons permit.
Suggested Areas of Technical Development
We understand the Committee is already in possession of the Department's views on its technical requirements for resolution, spectral coverage, geographic registration, and so on. Since the FAS does not have responsibility for the technical development of remote sensing technology, our recommendations in these areas are from the standpoint of a user, rather than a designer of space technology.
We need a capability to extract quantitative data, such as duration and amounts of precipitation, from meteorological satellite imagery. Currently, we rely on data from ground reporting stations for information on precipitation, wind speed and direction, surface temperature, and other weather related data which are essential to our activities. Data from a ground station represents only the weather at that particular point, and may not be at all representative of rainfall and temperatures in surrounding areas. Also, in many of the areas of interest to FAS, first-order ground reporting stations are widely separated.
O We see the need to develop a common current and historical meteorological data base which can be accessed very quickly and selectively by all Federal users, and possibly by non-Federal users. Data is of use only when it is available in a timely manner and in usable format.
O We would recommend maximum development and use of communication satellites capabilities for the rapid transfer of space-acquired and other data and information between locations.
Future Use of Space Data by USDA
While the Department recognizes the potential value of satellite data, and is committing substantial resources to research, development, and testing, it has made no commitments to operational use of the data. The future of the application of space-acquired data in the Department's programs will to a great extent be established by the multiagency coordinated research, development, and testing program which is now being planned. This program was briefly described earlier in the statement. Therefore, it is too early to make definitive statements about what a future space system would look like, and who would operate it. However, we can make the following general observations:
o Satellites, alone, are not likely to produce information which is usable by the Department. The satellite data must be analyzed in conjunction with data acquired from other sources. These would include data on weather, climate, and historical trends, attache reports, maps, soil information, field surveys, census data, trade journal, and other kinds of remotely sensed data. Thus, we view satellites as potentially valuable providers of repetitive and unbiased data which can be integrated into our information systems.
O Landsats-C and D, while primarily experimental satellite systems, will provide repetitive digital data which can be delivered in near-real time, and will be capable of supporting some operational applications. This gives us the opportunity to learn as much as we can about the value of satellites to the Department.
In the short term, we believe that the biggest potential payoff from satellites will be in assessing the condition and production potential for foreign crops. For many foreign areas, our current information is inadequate or is received too late to be of maximum use. Data from Earth resources and meteorological satellites could be used in developing early warnings of events which may affect the total production of important world crops, and in after-the-fact assessments of the impact of these events.
O Other areas where satellite data can probably be used are in forest resource inventorying and monitoring, general land use inventories and change detection, soils association mapping, and monitoring and predicting water runoff. No doubt many other applications will surface as as technology advances and analysis techniques are developed.