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European Space Agency Selects AMEC To Demonstrate New Technology

02 December 2003


(Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, USA – Nov. 24, 2003) The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected the international engineering services firm AMEC to develop and expand the use of satellite earth observation (EO) technologies to locate and evaluate land subsidence problems. In addition to developing the technology for the agency, AMEC will market the considerable benefits this can deliver to potential users worldwide across a range of industry sectors.

Land subsidence is a global problem estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars in losses annually due to structural damage to highways, dams, pipelines and buildings and the depreciation of property values. Subsidence may result from human activities such as subsurface fluid withdrawal and mining or from natural processes.

Under an ESA-funded technology-development contract, AMEC’s Earth & Environmental division will integrate earth observation technologies into the company’s portfolio of services to address subsidence problems. The agreed budget for the three-year contract is 750,000 Euros (US$878,000). The ESA, an entity composed of 15 European states, promotes space exploration and research. The ESA launches and operates satellites and annually funds contracts to promote the use of earth-observation technology.

AMEC’s mission will be to develop the application and use of space-borne Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) in the investigation and assessment of ground subsidence. InSAR utilizes satellite-based data acquired at two different times along orbits of a similar trajectory to detect minute changes in the ground surface. InSAR can be used to map subsidence with a vertical precision of a few millimeters, and it can be a valuable tool to detect zones of ground settlements that could harm existing or future facilities.

“AMEC can provide opportunities for the European Space Agency to get its space-borne technologies applied and accepted in the real world of engineering, which can be very conservative and reluctant to try new ideas,” said Keith Kosar, Ph.D., an AMEC senior geotechical specialist in Vancouver, B.C. and manager of the ESA project. “Our role will be to introduce earth observation to our clients, carry out demonstrations and use it in actual projects.”

Under the business plan for the project, AMEC will designate Earth & Environmental offices in Europe (Frankfurt, Germany), Canada (Vancouver) and the United States (Phoenix) to serve as “centers of excellence.” These offices will introduce selected AMEC service-line leaders and senior project managers to earth-observation technologies. They also will use such technologies with customers who have subsidence problems that have been monitored through conventional means such as surveying.

On a localized basis, AMEC already has been developing expertise working with InSAR and satellite imagery, and has used the technology on projects to help locate earth fissures that threaten earthen dams, canals and mining facilities and to analyze and remediate slopes along highways, pipelines and railways.

AMEC will be assisted by subcontractor and strategic partner Atlantis Scientific Inc., a world-class EO provider that specializes in products and services relating to satellite data acquisition, radar remote sensing, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) processing, Interferometric SAR, image analysis and advanced signal processing applications. AMEC and Atlantis Scientific have formed an alliance to bring EO products and services to clients worldwide. It is expected that this partnership will enable AMEC to provide more innovative and cost-effective solutions to existing and future engineering and environmental problems.

AMEC also will employ the services of Infoterra Ltd. of the United Kingdom to provide high-resolution optical imaging services that can be used to help interpret InSAR data. Additionally, the Land Use Planning and Natural Risks Division of BRGM (French Geological Survey) will provide scientific review of the project.

AMEC operates 90 Earth & Environmental engineering offices that specialize in environmental, water resources, geotechnical and materials-testing projects.



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