The first ever satellite with artificial intelligence (AI) equipment has shown positive results. We are talking about the PhiSat-1 apparatus, which includes a “smart” data processing system with a visual processor (VPU) Intel Movidius Myriad 2.
The Movidius Myriad 2 chip is used on Earth in many devices, in particular, in smart video surveillance cameras and low-cost drones. However, this product was not originally intended for work in space. Therefore, the developers had to conduct radiation tests, subjecting the processor to a series of tests to figure out how to handle possible errors and respond to physical wear and tear.
The PhiSat-1 satellite is equipped with a new camera with hyperspectral thermal imaging functions. The device is designed for monitoring polar ice and soil moisture control, as well as testing the inter-satellite communication system.
Experts point out that about two-thirds of the surface of our planet is usually covered with clouds and is not suitable for monitoring. And therefore, a huge number of generated images sent to Earth via expensive communication channels, in fact, does not carry any information load. The Movidius Myriad 2 processor is used in the new satellite to filter out unnecessary images. Due to this, up to 30% of the bandwidth of the communication channel can be saved.
“Flying over forests, the satellite is able to detect fires and notify rescuers about them in a matter of minutes. Above the ocean surface, which is usually ignored by other devices, an AI satellite can detect illegal ships or environmental disasters. Examining agricultural land, he fixes the degree of soil moisture, which allows you to control the process of crop growth“, – note the developers.
It is curious that to train the satellite AI system, the specialists used artificially generated data obtained during previous space missions. As a result, the “electronic mind” was able to recognize the presence or absence of clouds in the images.
The PhiSat-1 satellite was launched into heliosynchronous orbit in September this year. The tests carried out since then have shown the effectiveness of the applied software and hardware solutions. And now the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that a joint development team has created the first-ever AI hardware accelerator to observe the Earth’s surface and process images directly on orbiting satellite.
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