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Australia and France to Cooperate on Hyperspectral Imaging for Environmental Monitoring

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and French President Emmanuel Macron. Photograph courtesy of AFP.

Australia and France are set to cooperate in hyperspectral remote sensing for monitoring the environment and global warming, as part of France’s quest to become a leading power in the use of space systems in the battle against climate change.

UNSW Canberra Space and the French space agency, CNES, are partnering to study a breakthrough hyperspectral remote-sensing satellite that will be capable of monitoring coral reefs in Australia and the South Pacific.

Under a Letter of Intent delivered this week, the joint study will pave the way for developing disruptive space technologies, including hyperspectral remote sensing, on-board processing, artificial intelligence, and formation-flying technologies. Such technologies can be used to monitor fresh and marine water quality, enabling precision farming practices. The study will be conducted at the Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF) at UNSW Canberra with instrumental support from CNES.

The Letter of Intent was delivered by Frédérique Vidal, French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,

This move is part of ongoing collaboration between France and Australia. In 2017, UNSW Canberra Space and CNES set up a facility with the support of the ACT Government, in the style of the world-class concurrent engineering centre developed by CNES at its Toulouse Space Centre.

Professor Russell Boyce, Director of UNSW Canberra Space, says France and Australia have a strong legacy of space cooperation over 35 years and this project will see that relationship continue. “After two years of working with CNES toward the development of joint space missions, it’s fantastic to see our first project come to fruition,” he said.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, CNES President, believes that the recent addition of space as one pillar in the strategic partnership between Australia and France has fundamentally consolidated prospects for space cooperation between the two nations. “In 2017 we signed a preliminary agreement with the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, paving the way for a framework cooperation agreement with the Australian Space Agency when it’s set up to enable further development of joint projects.” He said. “CNES has been a big supporter of Australia and our relationship with UNSW Canberra Space as it grows and matures a domestic space industry. We expect that Australia will become an important strategic partner in this sector,” he said.

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