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SPIE Remote Sensing and Security + Defence 2016 event news and photos

Browse below for reports from some of the week's sessions and events.


Sir David Payne at SPIE Security and Defence

Wim Bastiaanssen at SPIE Remote Sensing

Sir Peter Knight at SPIE Security and Defence

Plenary speakers inspired a rapt audience on
Monday afternoon; from the top are
Sir David Payne (University of Southampton),
Wim Bastiaanssen (UNESCO Institute
for Water Education and Delft
University of Technology), and
Sir Peter Knight (Imperial College).

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#SPIEremotesensing  #SPIEsecuritydefence

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Plenary talks: communications, and food and water security

Plenary speakers shared the latest news in their fields in a joint session on Monday afternoon.

Up first, Sir David Payne, professor of photonics and director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre and the Zepler Institute at the University of Southampton, spoke on high-power fibre lasers for beam combination.

Wim Bastiaanssen, Chair for Global Water Accounting at the UNESCO Institute for Water Education, Senior Fellow to the Robert Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and professor of civil engineering and geosciences at Delft University of Technology, talked about Earth observation technoloiges for improving water and food security.

Sir Peter Knight, Senior Fellow in Residence at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre at Chicheley Hall and professor of quantum optics at Imperial College, spoke on quantum technology for a networked world.

Read more about the talks in the article.

SPIE Remote Sensing and Security + Defence plenary session

SPIE President Robert Lieberman, far left, congratulated symposium chairs and speakers
after the plenary talks; with Lieberman, left to right are Security + Defence co-chair Ric
(TNO Defence, Security and Safety), Security + Defence chair David Titterton
(UK Defence Academy), speaker Sir David Payne, speaker Sir Peter Knight,
Remote Sensing chair Klaus Schäfer (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of
Meteorology and Climate Research), and Security + Defence co-chair Karin Stein
(Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation).


Volume 10000! Perfect for the 'Next-Generation'

Toshiyoshi Kimura, Robert Lieberman, Steven Neeck, Roland Meynart

Haruhisa Shimoda at SPIE Remote Sensing 2016

Haruhisa Shimoda

The Proceedings of SPIE series has reached a major milestone with assignment of volume number 10000 to Sensors, Systems, and Next-Generation Satellites. SPIE President Robert Lieberman was on hand to mark the occasion with the conference chairs; from left above, Toshiyoshi Kimura (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Lieberman, Steven Neeck (NASA Headquarters), and Roland Meynart (European Space Research and Technology Centre).

Conference co-chair Haruhisa Shimoda (Tokai University) gave the first talk, providing an overview of Japanese Earth observation programs (10000-1).

Other sessions in the three-day conference will provide updates on European and U.S. missions, followed by sessions on calibration, sensing, and other technologies.


Remote sensing to assist cities in tracking environmental health risks

Nathanial Levitan at SPIE Remote Sensing

Nathaniel Levitan
Emily Berkson at SPIE Remote Sensing

Emily Berkson
Eduardo Landulfo at SPIE Remote Sensing

Eduardo Landulfo

A new high-interest topic was launched this year with the conference on Remote Sensing Technologies and Applications in Urban Environments.

The inaugural session on Monday, on Urban Air Quality, illustrated the plethora of opportunities for using remote sensing techniques to better understand the trends of pollutant dispersion in urban environments, addressing an increasing concern in large cities globally.

Nathaniel Levitan (City College of New York) gave an invited talk on improving aerosol retrieval in urban areas, where the MODIS algorithm performs poorly due to high variations in surface reflectivity (10008-1). Levitan's new algorithm, based on empirical orthogonal functions, successfully retrieved more than twice as many pixels as MODIS when tested over New York City and Philadelphia.

Following on, Emily Berkson (Rochester Institute of Technology) proposed a multispectral imaging system for tracking unburned hydrocarbon emissions from aircraft engine exhaust plumes (10008-2).

Eduardo Landulfo (National Nuclear Energy Commission) showed results from using wind doppler LiDAR to measure the turbulence kinetic energy of low-level jets in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where a future nuclear facility is to be built (10008-3).

Len van der Wal (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) wrapped up the session with a talk on using high-resolution, modular, compact spectrometers and SmallSats for pollutant monitoring (10008-6). He described a Spectrolite breadboard manufactured to monitor nitrogen dioxide concentrations, with possibilities to expand to different gas species.


Smarter and healthier cities with remote sensing

As cities grow throughout the world, so do environmental concerns regarding pollution along with corresponding interest in clean renewable energy.

In one of several talks Monday focused on pollutant monitoring within cities and pollutant correlations with adverse health effects. Yasemin Ҁetin (Middle East Technical University) presented work on gas detection techniques that require no prior knowledge of transmittance, emissivity, and temperature values (10008-5).

James Jack (University of Edinburgh) presented the results of measuring carbon dioxide levels in the city canyons of Edinburgh (10008-9). He noted that carbon dioxide levels of 2000ppm -- the point at which people will start to experience drowsiness and headaches -- were measured on a city bus.

Hernâni Gonçalves (Centro de Investigação em Tecnologias e Sistemas de Informação em Saúde) studied the correlations between a variety of environmental variables and the rate of pre-term births in Portugal. He noted that preterm births in Portugal had increased from below 5% to 7% from 2000 to 2014, but cautioned about assigning causations based on the study.

Other talks described research on the energy efficiency of cities, and their solar energy potential.

Emanuele Mandanici (Università degli Studi di Bologna) introduced the ChoT project (the Challenge of Thermography), which uses aerial thermography over Bologna to accurately map building surface temperatures and temperature fluctuations as an indicator of energy efficiency (10008-7).

Justine Teves (University of the Philippines) assessed the solar energy potential over Davo City, concluding that solar energy would be a valuable resource for the city (10008-8).


Erika Andersson at SPIE Security and Defence

Erika Andersson (Heriot-Watt University) gave
an invited talk on secure signatures:
a practical quantum technology (9996-3).
Florian Moll at SPIE Security and Defence

Florian Moll (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und
Raumfahrt e.V.) spoke on LEO-ground scintillation
measurements (9991-9) in an invited talk.
Gerald Buller and Robert Hadfield at SPIE Security and Defence

Gerald Buller (Heriot-Watt University), at left,
gave a keynote talk on progress in quantum
communications technologies at the UK
Quantum Technology Hub (9996-1);
Robert Hadfield (University of Glasgow) spoke
on superconducting detectors as a
key enabling technology for QKD.

Upendra Singh at SPIE Remote Sensing

Upendra Singh (NASA Langley Research Center)
gave an invited talk on airborne lidar
for simultaneous measurement of CO2 and
water vapor in the atmosphere (10006-1).


Welcome: reception at The Hub

Attendees gathered at The Hub at the top of the Royal Mile for a well-enjoyed welcome reception Monday evening, with some stopping to enjoy the view on the way up the hill.

welcome reception at The Hub welcome reception at The Hub
welcome reception at The Hub welcome reception at The Hub


Measuring soil moisture with remote sensing capabilities: a tribute to Dr. Manfred Owe

Manfred Owe tribute

The 2016 conference on Remote Sensing
for Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Hydrology
was dedicated to the late Manfred Owe.

Richard de Jeu

Richard de Jeu

Measurements of soil moisture are used for determining city water budgets, agricultural applications, and predicting natural disasters. While ground-based measurements of soil moisture are expensive and time-consuming, remote sensing techniques offer fast results at high temporal and spatial coverage.

On Tuesday morning, Christopher Neale (University of Nebraska, Lincoln) chaired a special session on Remote Sensing of Soil Moisture, with a tribute to Manfred Owe, a pioneer in the field, who died on 21 January. The 2016 conference on Remote Sensing for Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Hydrology is dedicated to Dr. Owe, whose decade-long involvement as conference chair and committee member contributed considerably to the event's success.

In the first talk, Richard de Jeu (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), a former student of Owe’s, highlighted the important contributions Owe made to the capabilities of remotely sensing soil moisture (9998-15). De Jeu emphasized algorithms developed by Owe that are still considered state-of-the-art today.

Wim Bastiaanssen (UNESCO) spoke on the benefits of using both thermal and microwave observations for soil moisture retrieval (9998-16), and Antonino Maltese (Università degli Studi di Palermo) presented the results of a study using a multi-temporal approach with the triangle method for estimating vegetation stress (9998-17).

Neale concluded the session with a comparison of four methods of monitoring soil moisture and creating variable rate irrigation prescriptions for center pivot systems. Controlling the pivot speed and individual sprinklers will allow fields to be irrigated based on crop, soil type, and water capacity. This project will save both water and energy for farmers (9998-18).


The latest in imaging, sensing, more at the exhibition

Security + Defence 2016 exhibition

The Security + Defence 2016 exhibition buzzed with energy as conference attendees and traffic from local industry walked the floor hearing about the latest products and discussing upcoming needs and business opportunities. More than 40 companies participated in the two-day exhibition.

Security + Defence 2016 exhibition Security + Defence 2016 exhibition
Security + Defence 2016 exhibition Security + Defence 2016 exhibition


Sensor-powered sensors for extraterrestrial atmospheric observation

Imagine the discoveries to be made with a global network of suspended atmospheric sensors that monitor meteorological parameters and pollutants.

NASA has contemplated this idea for Earth and extraterrestrial observations, but with 10 billion lightweight sensors placed at every square kilometer, the question becomes "with what power source?". As batteries are too heavy, expensive, and require replacing, scientists need to look elsewhere to generate power.

Enter Melvin Siegel (Carnegie Mellon University), with ideas on how to power sensors with sensors (9986-9).

On Tuesday afternoon Siegel presented methods of using sensors to perform small amounts of work by foraging energy from the environment. He emphasized transduction sensors, which can be in the form of thermocouples, photocells, antenna, and lenses or mirrors, using power sources such as the sun, wind, water, radio frequencies, and temperature or pressure gradients.

David Titterton receives the DEPS Award from Mark Neice

SPIE Security and Defence symposium chair
David Titterton (UK Defence Academy) was
presented with the Directed Energy Professional
Society Award by Mark Neice of DEPS at the
opening of the Technologies for Optical
Countermeasures conference Tuesday morning.

Organic alternatives also look promising, Siegel said. With a favorable outlook for using sensors to power sensors, he urged optics and photonics researches to become "close friends" with materials scientists: these methods are easy to demonstrate but difficult to employ.


Improving combat vehicle safety with automatic optical threat detection

Many of the threats posed to combat vehicles and military personnel, such as riflescopes, snipers, and missiles, are associated with distinct optical signatures. These optical signatures are typically the result of retroreflecting objects that emit strong signals.

The capability to autonomously detect these optical threats is of great interest to the military, as it would allow for increased survivability and provide a lengthier response time for personnel.

On Tuesday afternoon, Lars Sjöqvist (FOI-Swedish Defence Research Agency) presented a system to detect, locate, and counter enemy optical threats (9989-6).

Working with the Swedish Army Combat School, Sjöqvist and researchers from Saab Electronic Defence Systems and BAE Systems Bofors designed an autonomous, scanning slit optical system to assist combat vehicles and their personnel in detecting optical threats along the horizon.

The system was integrated with a LEMUR remote electro-optical sight and used existing displays in the vehicle. It also came equipped with a dazzling laser used as a countermeasure to neutralize confirmed optical threats.


Hot trends in industry -- but first, challenges

Speakers in the Wednesday Industry session highlighted the rapid technological advances taking place in the defense, security, and sensing communities. However, while these communities have a strong foundation, certain precautions must be taken in the present to ensure continued growth in the future.

Sir Brian Burridge (Leonardo and UK Defence Solutions Centre) began the session by noting four major challenges that the community will soon need to face:

  • Operational: meeting the requirements for persistent observations
  • Science and technology: alleviating the burden placed on warfighters with high-resolution data
  • Commercial exploitation: encouraging the government and industry to work more cohesively
  • Sustainability Challenge: how to attract future generations into STEM fields.
Sir Brian Burridge and Andrew Cunningham

Sir Brian Burridge (left), Andrew Cunningham
Graeme Malcolm at SPIE Security and Defence

Graeme Malcolm
Ian Reid at SPIE Remote Sensing

Ian Reid
Jaime Reed at SPIE Remote Sensing

Jaime Reed

Regarding the fourth, Burridge described several Cold War events that attracted him to working in the defense industry, and emphasized methods of drawing secondary school students into engineering fields.

He also noted the lack of women in STEM disciplines, the upcoming age crisis present in many academic fields, and the trend of top universities shifting away from the U.S., UK, and Europe.

Despite these challenges, Burridge reminded the audience that we are in an era of opportunity.

Read more about his presentation in the article.


Future innovations in defence, Earth observation, and more

In 2015, the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review mentioned the word "innovation" nearly 40 times, compared to just 4 times in 2010. In his industry session talk, Andrew Cunningham (UK Defence Solutions Center) outlined future aims of the UK regarding innovation in defence.

Established in 2015, the DSC seeks to strengthen the defence sector's performance in exports and encourages UK industries to collaborate and innovate more effectively.

In a 3- to 15-year outlook on exports, key aims include an enhanced focus on the customer, further developments to UK capabilities, and improving the value of investments. Some specific goals are better alignment of the government and industry, a deeper understanding of UK strengths and weaknesses regarding technological capabilities, and the development of targeted funding models to optimize investments.

Other speakers in the full-day session included:

  • Graeme Malcolm, OBE, CEO and co-founder of Glasgow-based M Squared Lasers, on laser applications in remote threat detection, and the state of the art in diode-pumped solid-state lasers, optical parametric oscillators, and semiconductor lasers.
  • Ian Reid, CEO of CENSIS, with an overview of the role of Innovation Centres in the Scottish innovation and economic development landscape, including a look at the range of operating models, how innovations are engaging industry and academia, expectations as to what is ahead.
  • Stephen Marshall, professor and director of the Hyperspectral Imaging Centre at the University of Strathclyde, on technology trends in remote sensing, including miniaturized multi- and hyperspectral cameras and other devices incorporated into drones and other flying sensors.
  • Nigel Douglas, CEO of Global Surface Intelligence Ltd., on the "Earth observation gold rush" resulting from an exponential increase in the number of satellites in orbit in the near future and the amount of sensor data they will generate.
  • Jaime Reed, Head of Research and Development in the Earth Observation, Navigation, and Science Directorate of Airbus DS, on tools developed by the remote sensing community for analysing huge volumes of data from satellite systems, particularly for weather and climate.


Photonics market survey shows continued upward trend

Revenue generated by core photonics and photonics-enabled businesses continues on an upward trend, according to the most recent analysis from an ongoing market survey of the global market by SPIE, reported SPIE Director of Industry Development Stephen Anderson during the industry session.

Along with revenue, numbers of companies and employees are also on the rise, Anderson said. The report notes that in 2014, there were around 3,200 companies in the core components business, underpinning photonics-enabled markets worth $1.45 trillion and employing approximately 3.5 million people.

Of the total $1.45 trillion in revenues projected this year from photonic-enabled markets:

  • 52% are in consumer and entertainment
  • 15% are in defense, security, and law enforcement
  • 15% are in lighting and displays.

The most recent update provides 2015 revenue estimates for the core components business and indicates that the sales of core photonics materials and components continued to grow at a healthy rate over 2014 when reported by region in the local currencies. Revenues in China, for example, increased by 114%, Anderson noted.


Nanopillars: from the lab out into the real world

Research into nanostructures and their potential for integration into daily life has burgeoned in the past decade. However, the field has stalled when it comes to implementing nanostructures within useful applications.

In an invited talk on Wednesday morning, Diana Huffaker (University of California, Los Angeles, and Cardiff University) presented work on photolithographically defined nanopillars, and demonstrated multiple devices utilizing the technology (9992-1).

While the traditional method of synthesizing nanopillars with a catalyst leaves particulate matter residue and hinders the real device performance, Huffaker's method of producing nanopillars on a silicon/silicon-on-insulator substrate addresses these issues, and allows for control of diameter, placement, pitch, and patterning.

Applications include the first 3D antenna array (patent pending), where two plasmonic modes are harnessed; InGaAs single-photon avalanche diodes (SPADs) for reduced-hazard LiDAR on autonomous vehicles (longer wavelength for better eye safety, low noise, larger range, and less expensive); and future improvement for optical links.


Hyperspectral imaging for precision agriculture

Monitoring crop health for precision agriculture is a rapidly advancing field in spectral remote sensing. Chlorophyll measurements, correlated with nitrogen levels, are one of the primary indicators for monitoring vegetation growth and health. This drives research into how remote sensing can be leveraged to obtain chlorophyll measurements, and thus eliminate the need for time-consuming ground-based measurements.

On Wednesday afternoon, Xin-gang Xu (Chinese National Engineering Research Center for Information Technology in Agriculture) measured the ratio of leaf carbon to leaf nitrogen (C/N) in winter wheat and spring barley (9998-39). Ten spectral indices for nitrogen or chlorophyll were examined, and three were found to maximize the correlation between nitrogen estimates and C/N measurements.

Rasmus Houborg (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) used Hyperion imagery to monitor chlorophyll levels and the leaf area index at a sub-weekly rate, as an exploratory study for the capabilities and utility of future hyperspectral space-based sensors (9998-41).

Matthew McCabe (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) and Ian Yule (Massey University) both emphasized the value of airborne sensors for high-resolution data and precision agriculture. McCabe focused on the evolution from space-based sensors to less expensive commercial UAVs and their potential for repeated observations of specific scenes (9998-74). Yule concluded the session by presenting techniques for monitoring the soil fertility in the challenging New Zealand terrain (9998-42).


Poster session draws a crowd

poster session at SPIE Remote Sensing and Security and Defence

Wednesday evening's poster session drew a large crowd to view papers and talk with authors.

poster session at SPIE Remote Sensing and Security and Defence poster session at SPIE Remote Sensing and Security and Defence
poster session at SPIE Remote Sensing and Security and Defence poster session at SPIE Remote Sensing and Security and Defence
poster session at SPIE Remote Sensing and Security and Defence


Monitoring sea-level rise with ocean altimetry

For more than two decades, satellite altimetry has been used to study the Earth's oceans. Altimetry data provides precise and accurate measurements of wave amplitudes that are used in forecasting, long-term climate studies, and ship routing.

On Thursday afternoon, Paolo Cipollini (UK National Oceanography Center) discussed recent advances that allow for the study of coastal data as well (10003-29).

Altimetry data processing has been improved with the adaptive leading-edge subwaveform retracker, which has been validated for multiple satellites. The new technique will help recover 20 years of unusable coastal data, leading to improvements in the study of coastal dynamics, regional sea-level rises, and the prediction of storm surges.

Better data is also available thanks to the technological evolution of synthetic aperture radar, with which coastal data can be collected with a higher SNR, better resolution, and reduced contamination.

Some 1.5 billion people live in coastal regions, and more than 20 megacities are based at sea level.


Congratulations! Best Student Paper Awards announced!

Conference committees have announced winners of Best Student Paper Awards -- congratulations to all for outstanding work!

SPIE Remote Sensing


Remote Sensing for Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Hydrology

  • Mark Jeunnette, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; 9998-37 “Remote sensing for developing world agriculture: opportunities and areas for technical development”

Remote Sensing of the Ocean, Sea Ice, Coastal Waters, and Large Water Regions

  • Milad Niroumand-Jadidi, Università degli Studi di Trento and Freie Universität Berlin; 9999-23 “Improving the accuracies of bathymetric models based on stepwise multiple regression for calibration (case study: Sarca River, Italy)”

Remote Sensing of Clouds and the Atmosphere

  • Thomas Chambers, University of Adelaide; 10001-22 "A low-cost digital holographic imager for the study of cloud particles"

Active and Passive Microwave Remote Sensing for Environmental Monitoring

SAR Data Processing: Joint Topic with Conference on Image and Signal Processing for Remote Sensing

  • Leonardo Carrer, Università degli Studi di Trento; 10004-45 “A bat-inspired technique for clutter reduction in radar sounder systems”

Image and Signal Processing for Remote Sensing

  • Milad Mahour, University of Twente; 10004-12 “Individual tree detection in orchards from VHR satellite images using scale-space theory”

Earth Resources and Environmental Remote Sensing/GIS Applications

  • Yang Chen, Monash University and Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC: 10005-17 “Estimation of forest surface fuel load using lidar”
  • Edurne Ibarrola Ulzurrun, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid; 10005-41 “Influence of pansharpening techniques in obtaining accurate vegetation thematic maps”

High-Performance Computing in Remote Sensing

  • Agustín García Flores, Universidad de Extremadura and Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas and Centro Extremeño de Tecnologías Avanzadas; 10007-1 “A new tool for supervised classification of satellite images available on web servers: Google Maps as a case study”

SPIE Security and Defence


Electro-Optical and Infrared Systems: Technology and Applications

  • Iain Rodger, Queen’s University Belfast; 9987-17 “Classifying objects in LWIR imagery via CNNs”

Electro-Optical Remote Sensing

  • Jonathan Klein, Institut Franco-Allemand de Recherches de Saint-Louis and Universität Bonn; 9988-1 “Real-time tracking around a corner”

High-Power Lasers 2015: Technology and Systems

  • Wei Huang, Chinese Academy of Sciences and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences: 9990-9 “Comparative study of DPAL and XPAL systems and selection principal of parameters”

Emerging Imaging and Sensing Technologies

  • Aurora Maccarone, Heriot-Watt University; 9992-26 “Depth imaging in highly scattering underwater environments using time-correlated single photon counting”

Millimetre Wave and Terahertz Sensors and Technology

  • Gleb Katyba, Bauman Moscow State Technical University and Institute of the Solid State Physics RAS; 9993-17 “Terahertz waveguides based on multichannel sapphire shaped crystals”

Optics and Photonics for Counterterrorism, Crime Fighting and Defence

  • Arne Schumann, Fraunhofer-Institut für Optronik, Systemtechnik und Bildauswertung; 9995-22 “Deep person re-identification in aerial images”

Quantum Information Science and Technology

  • Rakhitha Chandrasekara, Center for Quantum Technologies; 9996-13 “Generation and analysis of correlated pairs of photons on board a nanosatellite”

Target and Background Signatures

  • Lukas Cavigelli, ETH Zürich; 9997-22 “Computationally efficient target classification in multispectral image data with deep neural networks”






Press and blog coverage

New approaches to hyperspectral imaging,, 29 September 2016

Key to growing military business: invest in R&D,, 28 September 2016

Fiber lasers and quantum photonics show great promise,, 28 September 2016

Aspheric optics for the far infrared range, AZoOptics, 20 September 2016

Photonics showcased at SPIE defence and security meeting,, 20 July 2016


SPIE press releases

Industry leaders to share insights on new opportunities for photonics in sensing, security, 31 May 2016



Contributors: Emily Berkson, Andrew Brown, Amy Nelson

All photos © SPIE


SPIE Remote Sensing 2015
SPIE Security + Defence 2015


Click below or browse at left:

Plenary talks: communications, and food and water security

Volume 10000! Perfect for the 'Next-Generation'

Remote sensing to assist cities in tracking environmental health risks

Smarter and healthier cities with remote sensing

Welcome: reception at The Hub

Measuring soil moisture with remote sensing capabilities: a tribute to Dr. Manfred Owe

The latest in imaging, sensing, more at the exhibition

Sensor-powered sensors for extraterrestrial atmospheric observation

Improving combat vehicle safety with automatic optical threat detection

Hot trends in industry -- but first, challenges

Future innovations in defence, Earth observation, and more

Photonics market survey shows continued upward trend

Nanopillars: from the lab out into the real world

Hyperspectral imaging for precision agriculture

Poster session draws a crowd

Monitoring sea-level rise with ocean altimetry

Congratulations! Best Student Paper Awards announced!


Press and blog coverage

SPIE press releases



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