Airbus Defense and Space has commercially launched WorldDEM, a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) that provides pole-to-pole coverage of unprecedented accuracy. It allows customers to improve the quality of DEM applications in a host of industries including defense and aviation, oil, gas and mining.
The new model is based on data acquired by the high-resolution radar satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X, whose mission is to produce a global DEM at HRTE3 level, representing a significant jump forward in accuracy. In terms of resolution, it is setting new standards by providing 12-metre grid spacing globally, compared to 90-metre grid spacing on the existing global dataset from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is operating the mission and generating the global TanDEM-X DEM as a basis for WorldDEM.
WorldDEM guarantees a standardized global DEM with no regional or national border divides. This homogenous coverage will equip defense customers with a new level of precision for military applications (fighter aircraft, helicopter and UAVs), mission planning and operations in any location of the globe. For commercial aviation, the new model will provide improved input data for a range of flight systems. “What makes WorldDEM so innovative is that it will allow customers to tap into a vast global database of digital elevation data that is seamless, meaning they can expect to use the same type of data from one mission to the next,” said Bernhard Brenner, Head of the Geo- Intelligence programme line at Airbus Defense and Space. TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X started synchronous data acquisition in December 2010 and completed two coverages of the Earth’s entire landmass in mid-2013. The satellites are covering more complex terrain areas with a third and fourth acquisition campaign to ensure consistent high quality and accuracy of the final product. The entire acquisition campaign will be completed by mid-2014.
“With several rounds of coverage, WorldDEM provides such a high level of detail that in some cases one can even identify a tree, or differentiate a gravelroad from tarmac,” Brenner said. “It gives customers the precision they need to anticipate in planning for the next crisis and for strategic operations in remote terrains.”
Beyond aviation and defense applications, the new model also has a wide variety of potential uses in oil, gas and mineral exploration, in addition to serving as high-quality base data in the field of orthorectification of aerial or satellite imagery.
The TerraSAR-X (launched 2007) and TanDEM-X (launched 2010) radar satellite missions are implemented as a Public Private Partnership between the German Aerospace Center DLR and Airbus Defense and Space. Airbus Defense and Space holds the exclusive commercial marketing rights for the data. Based on the global TanDEM-X DEM generated by DLR, Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for the adaptation of the elevation model to the needs of commercial users worldwide and will now start to build the global WorldDEM database.