The Contribution of Space Technologies to Arctic Policy Priorities

S&R personnel, timeliness of locating victims is of the essence. If a distress alerting device is equipped with GNSS, it can be employed by S&Rs team to identify the location of the person, vehicle, vessel or aircraft in distress and to quickly navigate to that location. GNSS is also used in planning S&R operations to lay out search patterns and subsequently to systematically navigate over those patterns with GNSS. As a general rule, S&R response considers data from any observing system valuable that was acquired near (spatially and temporally) confirmed emergency situations. The major contributions of EO within a S&R context include: the provision of critical locations (e.g., initial locations of vessels or aircraft in distress if other options are not available); the delivery of a rapid, synoptic view of the surroundings of an emergency (e.g., ice conditions, land cover, access routes); and the derivation of environmental parameters used to predict search zones (e.g., wind fields, sea surface temperature, used to assess life expectancy during emergencies at sea). Satellite SAR imagery can provide surface wind information at a high spatial resolution, which can subsequently be used in dedicated models to predict an optimal search radius for offshore S&R operations (e.g., the CANSAR model). For most missions, emergency planning and delivery agreements exist that can be invoked to gain priority over all other uses of the satellite system. Satellite SAR imagery is largely unaffected by atmospheric conditions and solar illumination. However, the interpretation of SAR data may require specific expertise and processing capabilities (e.g., derivation of wind fields, target detection and classification) not typically resident within the community of first responders to emergencies. The use of optical imagery may be limited by its dependency on clear atmospheric conditions and the fact that emergencies often arise as a result of inclement weather. Likewise, optical imagery cannot be acquired in the dark, which exists upt to 24 hours a day during the Arctic winter. On the other hand, optical imagery lends itself easily to visual interpretation by non-EO specialists and is easily integrated into S&R efforts composed of multi- disciplinary teams. Timely access to EO data requires data downlink via a suitable network of ground stations, and delays ensue if no ground station is visible at the time of image acquisition. However, emergency operations usually rely on data streams from a multitude of available and potentially relevant observations, including EO and non-EO data. The unavailability of data from a single system is therefore somewhat mitigated. EARTH OBSERVATION SYSTEMS (Impact Medium)

authorities assist persons in distress. The next generation of the system will have S&R beacon signal repeaters hosted on GNSS satellites, but the GNSS signal may not be used as the primary location factor. The GNSS satellites are providing a platform to carry the S&R transponder into space, providing more available transponders to receive distress signals, which will allow for quicker notification, geo-location and response times. Although SARSAT beacons are equipped with an independent means of calculating their position, commercial products like the SPOT Personal Tracker (SPOT LLC, 2012) rely exclusively on their ability to receive and transmit accurate GNSS signals. 4.6 Disaster Management 4.6.1 Overview The process of disaster management involves four phases:

yy Mitigation – attempts to prevent hazards from developing into disasters altogether or to reduce the effects of disasters

yy Preparedness – development of plans of action to manage and counter the risks and take action to build the necessary capabilities needed to implement such plans

yy Response – mobilization of the necessary emergency services and first responders in the disaster area

yy Recovery – restoration of the affected area to its previous state (e.g., rebuilding destroyed property, re-employment, and repair of essential infrastructure) In the Arctic, the response and recovery phases are of particular significance, given the circumstances previously discussed (e.g., remoteness, extreme weather, scarcity of resources and equipment, critical dependence on communications and transportation infrastructure, etc.). There are concerns that the potential for disasters will grow in the Arctic region as the accessibility of the region improves and the level of commercial activity grows. 4.6.2 Policy A number of Arctic policy documents reference disaster (or emergency) management initiatives. yy The Iceland in the High North report references the importance of a collaborative focus on emergency response and environmental protection due to increasing sea traffic in the Arctic. yy Norway’s New Building Blocks in the North report lists improving monitoring, emergency (and oil spill) response and maritime safety systems in northern waters as a second strategic priority. Norway will establish an integrated monitoring and notification system, further develop the Coastal Administration’s maritime safety expertise, and strengthen oil spill response. yy Canada’s Northern Strategy: Our North, Our Heritage, Our Future includes assessment of capacity to respond to Arctic pollution events and ability to respond to environmental emergencies.


COSPAS-SARSAT has been operational since 1979, and is a primary resource for S&R operations. Operating world-wide, it is highly relevant for search and rescue operations in the Arctic. COSPAS-SARSAT provides accurate, timely, and reliable distress alert and location information to help search and rescue


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