Germany has signed an agreement with Airbus Defense and Space to utilise global elevation data collected by the TanDEM-X satellite, for military purposes.
The country’s unified armed forces Bundeswehr will use the 3D data for surveillance, reconnaissance and mission planning.
TanDEM-X (TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement) is an Earth observation satellite that can generate images similar to stereoscopic pictures.
Launched in 2010, the satellite measured the Earth’s entire land surface of 150 million km² in around three years. Its designed operational life is five years.
The idea behind the mission is to produce a global Digital Elevation Model (DEM) with very high accuracy.
TanDEM-X is a public-private partnership between Airbus Defence and Space and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).
Airbus will market the data for commercial purposes, while DLR will use it for scientific applications.
The company has developed a software tool for the adaptation of the elevation data and markets it to military and commercial users under the name WorldDEM.
WorldDEM promises ‘pole-to-pole’ data with an accuracy that beats any other global satellite-based elevation model.
It provides terrain information to the user, by removing vegetation and man-made objects.
The global coverage supports international cooperation and cross-border mission planning, especially in operations such as air strikes on Syria.
The DEM facilitates interpretation of landscapes for mapping of obstacles, line of sight estimation and flight path / possible landing site planning.
Airbus Defence and Space communications, intelligence and security (CIS) business line executive vice-president Evert Dudok said: "We are proud of the trust shown by the German Ministry of Defence, which now becomes the first user of the global information provided through WorldDEM."
Image: A TanDEM-X generated image. Photo: courtesy of Airbus Defence and Space.