UAE to develop radar satellites as Dh3 billion fund is announced

Practical applications include monitoring road traffic and detection of oil spills


A Staff Reporter

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Published: Sun 17 Jul 2022, 11:27 AM

Last updated: Sun 17 Jul 2022, 10:51 PM

The UAE has announced the launch of a new project that will develop a swarm of radar satellites. This came as the President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced a Dh3-billion fund to support the UAE’s burgeoning space programme.

The fund’s first investment will be in the development and launch of the constellation of advanced imaging satellites for the UAE, using the SAR (synthetic aperture radar) technology. Named Sirb after the Arabic term for a flock of birds, the satellites will address the critical need for better environmental and land usage monitoring, data collection and analysis.

The Sirb project makes the UAE the first Arab country to develop a swarm of SAR satellites.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted that the country’s radar satellites will have an accuracy of one metre.

The satellites will be able to create highly detailed and complex radar ‘images’ of land use, ice cover, surface changes and characterisation, with a wide range of scientific, civil and commercial applications.

Practical applications include detection of oil spills, monitoring road traffic, tracking ships, monitoring crop yields, mapping and developing urban areas, border control and search and rescue planning and management.

The six-year development programme will see the first satellite launch in three years. The Sirb satellites will be built through a number of partnerships between the Emirati public and private sector together with international players, with submissions being opened for a range of system integration, development and subsystem construction opportunities as part of the constellation development, launch, operation and commercialisation plan.

Why SAR technology

Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, said: “SAR technology leapfrogs traditional imaging satellites, providing more powerful imaging using X-band radar technologies, allowing us to continue observations day and night, through fog and cloud cover as well as combining observations to create big data pictures simply not possible through conventional imaging.

“These small-scale satellites are more agile, faster to develop and more powerful – an indicator of the types of new generation systems that technology is now making possible.”

SAR technology combines the power of imaging satellites with cloud and ground penetrating capabilities that will open up applications from urban planning to archaeology, weather prediction, atmospheric quality analysis and climate change mapping. Critically, the SAR radar-based technology can provide high-resolution images for remote sensing applications regardless of sunlight illumination and weather conditions.

Dh3 billion fund

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said the National Space Fund is “expected to expand our growing capabilities in this vital sector while accelerating innovation in environmental sustainability”.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said the fund aims to support the establishment of national companies in the space sector, support new national strategic and research projects, and develop the capabilities of the Emirati engineering cadres in space technology.

“Only with advanced science can we contribute to the march of human development,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

Sarah Al Amiri said the UAE has a long-term plan and programme for the development of the space sector to create economic opportunities and new jobs.

“We are planning for a bright future filled with new challenges and openings for our young people – and this fund is precisely targeted at building opportunities for international co-operation in building Emirati enterprises,” the minister said.

The fund will encourage partnerships between international and local enterprises, providing them with incentives as a part of the UAE Space Agency’s Space Economic Zones Programme.

Salem Al Qubaisi, Director-General of the UAE Space Agency, said: “The National Space Fund will encourage global partnerships to establish themselves here in the Emirates, providing new and vital technology platforms and development to answer the needs of the UAE Space Programme and other global customers for vital innovation and technologies that answer the needs and possibilities of today’s world.”


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