The use of advanced aerial imaging to catch environmental malfeasance attests to the power of the latest crop of airborne surveillance technology currently under adoption by the property and planning sectors. 

Enhanced aerial imaging technologies are already having a profound impact on the built environment across multiple areas, from urban planning and the capturing detailed information on residential areas, to the monitoring of projects by real estate companies and the enhanced marketing of completed developments.

Aerial imaging technology is now poised to enhance monitoring and protection of the environment, by using detailed, timely images captured from above to detect illegal activities that cause ecological harm.

A number of organisations have emerged that make use of the latest aerial imaging technologies to monitor environmental conditions around the globe, and uncover any damage caused to them as well as the culprits responsible.

This enables activists and regulators to better monitor large corporations with respect them to the sustainability of their business operations, and hold them to account when their actions fall short of their environmental avowals.

Global Forest Watch, an organisation established by the World Resources Institute, employs satellites to produce a real-time, interactive map of the world’s forests, enabling observers to detect any illegal clearances in these environments as and when they occur.

The advanced software tool, produced in collaboration with geospatial content company DigitalGlobe, organizes the imagery into grids, and uses geospatial data to determine when clearing operations are illegal.

Other organisations and companies are availing themselves of similar hi-tech tools to monitor environmental destruction in a variety of areas.

These groups include non-profit group SkyTruth, which is currently developing an online platform called FrackFinder to monitor the environmental and health impacts of North America’s fast-expanding fracking sector.

SkyTruth previously used a raft of aerial imagining technology including satellite data and remote sensing to ascertain the extent of the damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, and prove that BP had misled the public about the severity of the disaster.

Leading titans in the software sector are also becoming involved in the use of aerial imagery to enhance protection the environment.

Google has teamed up with environmental group Oeana to establish Global Fishing Watch – an online platform for monitoring the commercial fishing industry around the globe.

The surveillance is accessible to anyone via the Internet, and enables users to track the movements of commercial sea vessels via satellite, facilitating the detection of any illegal fishing activities.