In my Hunt for Jack Reacher thriller Deep Cover Jack, we see how military and government satellites are being used for surveillance. As I wrote in a recent blog post, satellites use infrared technology to define clarity of images on earth. Since smoke, clouds, fog, even darkness are no problem, satellites can reveal an amazing amount of detail from the images they collect while in orbit — down to the jersey number of a player on a baseball field.
But can it be used to find Jack Reacher? (Hint: stranger things have happened)
The technology is surely more advanced than the general public knows. 30 years ago during the Cold War, the Hexagon spy satellite was capturing images better than Google Earth is capturing today.
According to the BBC, the latest US spy satellites can zoom in clearly to objects just ten centimeters in size. Data in such great detail is reserved for the government. But the rules were recently changed so that satellite companies now can legally reveal images that show objects and details at the 25-centimeter resolution.
Since the government can’t exactly tell us what exactly they’re doing with these images, we could be left wondering what good this technology is. We get an example of its usefulness in Deep Cover Jack, but it’s not very practical to the average citizen.
Here are 3 examples of satellites being used to create images useful to a larger population segment:
- Earthquake Response
When satellite imagery is combined with GPS data, scientists have been able to create images like this:
This 3-D map shows the magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Napa in 2014. By showing the earthquake itself, teams can very quickly pinpoint where the destruction will be worst, where the areas of most dire need after an earthquake will be, and respond much more quickly.
- Earthworks discovered in Kazakhstan
A Central Asian man fascinated with exotic ruins used Google Earth’s satellite imagery to search through Kazakhstan, looking for anything interesting from above. What he found was dozens of odd, human-made mounts and earthworks scattered throughout a remote area.
You’d never notice them on the ground, but from above, they’re hard to miss. Archaeologists are now studying the meaning of and history behind these earthworks.
- Satellite imagery has been used to count Weddell seals in Antarctica.
Counting Weddell seals helped researchers gauge the health of the Ross Sea.
There’s an ongoing list of projects underway that invite the public to use satellite imagery to help solve real-world problems from their home computer, like finding a lost hiker and tracking flood damage. You can get involved and explore the power of satellite imagery HERE.