Earth Observation & Data Collection

Detailed information of about 15 million hectares of rice fields are collected and evaluated under the RIICE project. Initially, the project assisted its Asian partner countries to develop satellite-based technology that provides timely, accurate information on rice area, crop yields and estimated damage. It is based on the Sentinel satellite system of the European Space Agency (ESA), which provides free snapshots of Asia at regular intervals. The radar-based remote sensing technology, which is also called Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), has the ability to detect and interpret changes on the earth’s surface without direct observation. Depending on the satellites and the sensors used, the remote sensing data can have a spatial resolution of only several meters (20 by 5 meters for the ESA’s Sentinel programme) and a temporal resolution of several days (i.e. the satellite can take data from the same spot every few days as it circles the earth). The ESA satellites use radar sensors to scan the earth’s surface. Unlike optical systems, radar sensors can generate reliable data even at night and in cloudy conditions – a crucial advantage at times of persistent heavy rain, e.g. during the Monsoon period, making the tool perfect for rice crop monitoring.

By analysing time series, radar-based remote sensing technology can determine the extent of rice cropping, monitor the rice growth, estimate (to some extent) biomass and identify crop damages and losses caused by droughts and floods.

Remote sensing also replaces costly and slow data collection on the ground which was often found to be inaccurate or even manipulated.

(Image: ESA / Pierre Carril)