Satellite imagery, GPS, and Google Maps are all high-tech
ways to find your way around, and now they are revealing military moves by
the Syrian government.
Satellite images of Aleppo, Syria, show that the Assad
regime has deployed its heavy artillery in civilian neighborhoods. The American
Association for the Advancement of Science’s Geospatial and Human Rights
Project has been monitoring the situation over the past several months.Their full report is here.
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The AAAS analysis covered 182 square kilometers of Aleppo
and surrounding areas. It was based on satellite images captured on Aug. 9 by
DigitalGlobe’s Quickbird-2 satellite and on Aug. 23 by GeoEye’s IKONOS, as well
as information provided by AIUSA and media reports. A Google Earth image
taken on Oct. 5 of last year was also used to investigate changes in the features
of a military base.
The QuickBird satellite, launched in 2001, can see objects
down to 24 inches across, from an orbit 279 miles up. IKONOS orbits higher, at
about 430 miles and can see objects as small as three feet.
It’s part of a longstanding AAAS project to use image
analysis and satellite data such as GPS to monitor humanitarian crises in
troubled regions such as Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Ossetia, Afghanistan and
The AAAS said its image analysis wasn’t perfect -– the high
population density in Aleppo means that
tall buildings can cast shadows.
But a lot of detail can still be picked up. In a neighborhood called
Salaheddine, for example, smoke is visible above an urban area too tightly
packed to reveal street-level changes.
Getting information about Syrian troop movements has been
difficult at best; few news organizations operate inside the country and those
that do have to navigate between areas controlled by the opposition.
Top photo: Recently-constructed “revetments” — barriers to protect from artillery and probably mortar
positions — are visible near Aleppo airport on Aug. 9.
Image: AAAS / DigitalGlobe