Alibaba Cloud Planet Engine — A Powerful Satellite Imaging and Remote Sensing Platform

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Alibaba Cloud Planet Engine, the largest information center that manages and stores the numerous satellite images, is used to predict impending natural disasters and to monitor weather patterns, forest cover, and much more.

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At the National Remote Sensing Center of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Alibaba Cloud, together with world-renowned satellite imaging companies such as Changguang Satellite, Maxar Technology, China Siwei, and SuperMap, announced the launch of Alibaba Cloud Planet Engine. This product brings together hundreds of satellite imaging data sets from around the world to provide the integrated intelligent analysis and visualization capabilities to all.

In short, this is a platform that hosts various leading satellite image applications and connects users with satellite imaging technology. On the platform, any user may search for and browse satellite images of the Earth. The platform also allows users to use AI technology to perform intelligent analysis of these complex and mysterious satellite images. Through collaboration with ecosystem partners, this platform improves the efficiency of governments and enterprises in fields such as natural resource governance and environmental protection.

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Jilin-1 Constellation from Alibaba Cloud’s partner Changguang Satellite

Satellite remote sensing technologies have been around for nearly 50 years, so why is Alibaba Cloud entering this field now?

Since the launch of the first remote sensing satellite Landsat-1 in 1972, humans have been able to track changes to land, clouds, and typhoons from space to predict weather and prevent disasters.

After decades of development, hundreds of satellites now orbit the Earth. These satellites record changes to every inch of the Earth’s surface and have produced the most accurate images of the Earth in history.

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The collection of all these data is a truly astronomical number, with dozens of petabytes newly produced each year. In the past, researchers in the satellite remote sensing and astronomy fields had to store the data offline before conducting research and analysis. For example, to create the world’s first photo of a black hole released at the beginning of this year, the scientists needed 7 PB of data from 8 observatories around the world. For this purpose, the scientists had to store the data on 1,000 to 2,000 hard disks (weighing in at half a ton) and transport them by air to the data center for analysis.

Now, research in the field of satellite remote sensing has taken a step forward. Based on the spatial-temporal database technology developed by Alibaba Cloud, Alibaba Cloud Planet Engine helps to store, call, and compute multidimensional spatial data in the cloud in a high standard and orderly manner. This allows us to improve the reading and writing performance of large-scale remote sensing spatial data by a factor of 5 to 27. At present, the platform is already home to the world’s largest collection of remote sensing images, with resolutions of 0.5 m, 1 m, 2 m, 5 m, and more.

Of course, the value of Alibaba Cloud Planet Engine is not limited to the provision of elastic storage space for satellite image companies such as Changguang Satellite, Maxar Technology, and China Siwei. It also allows for the automated intelligent analysis and processing of images and can quickly and accurately analyze large-scale features like changes in lake areas and small-scale features like crop growth.

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The vegetation cover rate of coniferous forests in the Changbai Mountains is about 82.4%. The depth of Alpine glaciers fell by 70 cm. Soil loosening in the Amazon basin.

Alibaba Cloud Planet Engine promptly reports subtle changes that are almost imperceptible to the naked eye.

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In fact, the Alibaba remote sensing AI technology used by the platform has long been applied in practical scenarios. For example, in the field of land resource supervision, Alibaba cooperated with the Zibo Municipal Bureau of Land and Resources in Shandong province to replace human eyes with remote sensing AI technology in the analysis of remote sensing images of Zibo, which has an area of 5,965 square kilometers and compares a large number of new and old photos. Finally, through innovative algorithm models, it accurately detects features such as illegal buildings and the occupation cultivated land in one minute, which used to be several months.

Taking the long view, in the future, hundreds of satellite images from around the world will be displayed on Alibaba Cloud Planet Engine, empowering remote sensing satellites that travel thousands of kilometers above the Earth with greater intelligence. We hope to use cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing and AI to help humans accelerate their exploration of the Earth and outer space.

This is a down-to-earth application that looks up at the starry sky.

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