Fri, May 09, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Scientists unveil nation's pioneer digital imager

GROUND-BREAKING The high-tech camera developed by National Science Council could help earth scientists here to do their jobs better

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Research scientists at the National Science Council say that geological surveilance in Taiwan will be improved by the adoption of the nation's first domestically produced high-resolution digital imager.

Scientists at the council's Precision Instrument Development Center (PIDC) revealed the preliminary results of their Vegetation and Change Detection imager, which has been designed, produced and tested by the team.

The NT$8 million device is a result of 27 months research and development at the center.

The device may be used as part of the payload systems of Taiwan's ROCSAT-2, a research satellite scheduled to be launched at the end of this year, officials said.

By using more than one lens when it scans surfaces, the imager divides the spectrum of visible light into four sections. To date, scientists have successfully taken digital pictures by using four spectral bands -- including red light, blue light, green light and near infrared.

When a plane equipped with this device flies at a height of 2km, the imager can produce images with 50cm resolution, researchers said.

"Images taken by the imager are compatible to those we purchased from overseas," said Huang Ting-ming (黃鼎名), a researcher at the PIDC, at a press conference held in Taipei.

Until now, remote-sensing images used in Taiwan were purchased from other countries, Huang said. Most of them have been bought from two companies -- one French, one American.

Huang said that the aerial pictures taken by the made-in-Taiwan imager would be useful to tasks pertaining to cartography and real-time monitoring of things such as geological changes or marine pollution.

Chen Lien-huang (陳連晃), director of Agricultural and Forestry Aerial Survey Institute, said that geological surveillance would be carried out more comprehensively by using a combination of new digital pictures taken by the imager and those traditional pictures using film.

"Particularly, the database of remote sensing pictures is available not only to academic circles but also any individual who needs related information," Chen said.

To date, there have been 620 digital pictures of the Earth's surface taken by the new imager since last June.

PIDC's director-general Chen Chien-jen (陳建人), said remote-sensing technology became important because of the diverse applications of high-resolution images, including reconnaissance, meteorological observation and monitoring the aftermath of natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes.

As the demand for digital images of the ground increased due to the frequency of natural disasters in recent years, the Cabinet last year listed enhancing remote-sensing technology as one of the priorities for the country's scientific development, Chen said.

More than 300 government agencies, research institutes and companies in Taiwan use remote-sensing images for analyses of agricultural practices, natural vegetation, riparian ecology, water quality, land use, hydrology, water resources and other phenomena. Still, the environment for R&D of such technology was not fully developed, Chen said.

"Our research on state-of-the-art technology pertaining to optics will further promote related industries," Chen said.

Council chairman Wei Che-ho (魏哲和) said that the imagers technology could be transferred to neighboring countries so that the international community could benefit from the nation's scientific achievements.

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