Airbus Defence and Space

The Thai Earth Observation System

After years of relying on foreign satellite remote-sensing data, the Kingdom of Thailand decided to develop its own system, and in mid-2004 a contract was signed between the Thai space agency GISTDA (Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency) and Airbus Defence and Space for the development of a complete system comprising an optical observation satellite and ground control segment to be operated directly from Thailand by local authorities, together with image processing facilities and a wide range of Earth observation application tools tailored to the specific requirements of the local region and economy.

THEOS will provide Thailand with worldwide geo-referenced image products and image processing capabilities for applications in cartography, land use, agricultural monitoring, forestry management, coastal zone monitoring and flood risk management.

The advantages of independence

Having independent control of its own state-of-the-art observation capability, with the ability to determine the satellite work plan and possessing image and data processing facilities totally in line with the local geographic and economic environment will benefit Thailand in myriad ways.

Thailand is situated in a part of the world where, as the events of December 2004 so tragically demonstrated, conditions can be suddenly extreme, with devastating consequences. With its long thin southern peninsula, coastal monitoring is a necessity, and the country is subject to both flooding and drought – with 55% of available land given over to rice-growing, a mainstay of the economy with around 7 million tonnes exported annually and farmed by 3.6 million families, accurate, specific forecasting is essential. In a newly industrialised country such as Thailand, the ability to monitor land use is crucial both for natural resource management (such as keeping track of how the forests are being used or abused, or in the mining industry) and for economic development (agriculture, telecommunications infrastructures, urban planning). Narcotics production and the associated illegal trafficking is clearly a cause for concern where better information will be of value.

National hero

Even before its launch, THEOS has gained quite a reputation in its home country. The new Earth observation system is eagerly awaited in Thailand, and has already sparked public interest. In 2006, at a Kite Festival in Cha’am, Phetchaburi, conservationist Sommai Wattanamongkol displayed a full-scale kite replica of the satellite!

Earth ObservationRemote sensing