Airbus is facing one of its most important periods since a decade, shaping our future with a constellation of 6 VHR satellites with 2 Pleiades at 50cm and 2 Pleiades Neo at 30cm resolution (and 2 more to come). We are preparing this new era, upgrading all our systems with an important human and technological investment. . From tasking our satellites to the delivery of our products, we are improving all the steps deeply linked to the information system and our digital cloud-based platform One Atlas.
Following the successful launch of the first two Pléiades Neo satellites in 2021, Europe now has autonomous and sovereign very high resolution optical capabilities with 30cm resolution.
Beyond the fact that it’s 100% European, what makes Pléiades Neo so unique? It consists of 4 EO satellites, providing 30cm optical imagery, entirely funded and operated by Airbus Defence and Space. After more than 30 years of experience in satellite imagery services, it seemed like the logical way forward. In addition, Pléiades Neo is also the result of a whole new approach in terms of image quality and satellite capability. It has required rethinking the way we design satellites and exploit their services to answer a growing demand for increasingly large areas, complex requirements as well as last minute adaptations in tasking according to weather conditions and angles. All of that whilst ensuring best in class resolution with impeccable image quality.
Highestprecision with massive acquisition
Firstly Pléiades Neo provides 30cm native resolution meaning that the image shot by the satellite is the actual image you receive in terms of resolution. The image therefore provides an incredible amount of details that don’t appear on lesser resolution imagery, for instance: you can make clearly see road markings, traces in the sand, cables on construction sites, details of what is being loaded on docks, even people gatherings, distinct animals and people thanks to their shadows. The geolocation accuracy which measures the exact position of an object on an image, is 5m CE90.
And if one considers precision isn’t enough, in terms of acquisition capacity, the constellation is able to acquire up to 2 million square kilometers, every single day. Two million square kilometers at 30cm resolution fully dedicated to customers, every day.
Introducing intraday revisit
It is also the first time Airbus provides an intra-day revisit capability within the same constellation. Indeed depending on the incidence angle of the satellite and the latitude of the Area Of Interest (AOI), Pléiades Neo can provide between 2 and 4 revisits per day. More particularly the tests that have been conducted over several areas and shown a minimum of 2 revisits per day and a maximum of 3, providing over 28 days a total of 64 revisits. And that’s just with two of the four satellites fully operational today.
Ultimate reactivity tasking and image delivery
Work plans are updated every time a satellite enters into S-band contact, be it every 25 minutes (an orbit is 100min, 1h40), or 15 times per day per satellite. It represents around 60 plans uploaded every day at the constellation level.
Work plan are also pooled. This means that when an image is to be collected by one satellite, the related acquisition request is removed from the tasking plans of the other satellites.
These multiple and synchronised work plans per day enable easy handling of last-minute tasking requests – which can be placed up to 15min before S-band contact- as well as integration of the latest weather information, for an improved data collection success rate.
In addition, Airbus Defence and Space’s network of ground receiving stations, enabling an all-orbit contact and thus ensuring near real-time performances worldwide and rapid data-access, ensure the highest standards in terms of reactivity of our service.
Images are downlinked at each orbit, automatically processed and quickly delivered to the customer, allowing faster response when facing emergency situations.
New spectral bands
In terms of spectral bands, Pléiades Neo will acquire simultaneously the panchromatic channels and 6 multispectral bands, which are:
- Deep Blue
- Near Infrared
Red-Edge and Deep-Blue are two additional bands, compared to its predecessor Pléiades, which unveil complementary information for respectively vegetation and bathymetry applications. In urban environments, deep blue provides details of what is reflected in the shadows of the skyscrapers, therefore enabling far richer applications in working on e.g. smart cities and the monitoring of construction sites. Red-Edge can further enhance our understanding of vegetation and bring the processing of biophysical parameters to a completely new level and support the most efficient and respectful use of our precious natural resources on the Planet.
Finally, the tasking of a VHR satellite orbiting 600 km above the earth has never been easier. OneAtlas, our digital platform, allows the users to draw their AOI, choose Pléiades Neo as optical sensor and choose the date of acquisition while accessing the whole Airbus imagery archive.
By providing more data, more detailed, more rapidly and in a more accessible way, Pléiades Neo becomes the best support for Copernicus Contributing Missions.