Geodaysit 2023

Maria Virelli

Graduated in Mathematics, works in the Italian Space Agency in the Earth Observationand Operations Division holds the role of COSMO-SkyMed Mission Manager.


The experience of the Archaeological Park of Colosseum in the use of COSMO-SkyMed satellite data
Maria Virelli, Deodato Tapete, Irma Della Giovampaola

All archaeological sites are affected by changes due to a natural decay related to the ageing. If it compromises the functionality of the cultural property it becomes pathological and results in degradation. The monitoring, carried out with the use of innovative technologies, is a preliminary tool to an effective planned maintenance activity and therefore preventive conservation. Regarding these aspects the Parco archeologico del Colosseo took a strategic direction of a gradual transition from a plan of monitoring to a constant and planned conservation activity.
The monitoring project of the Parco archeologico del Colosseo (that started in a systematic way only in 2018) was inspired by the desire to build a sustainable system of protection and conservation, then allowing a proper tourism valorisation. With these objectives in mind, the Parco archeologico del Colosseo has developed a static and dynamic monitoring project consisting of five fundamental activities:
1. a database of all the historical data of the monuments, together with the existing graphic and photographic documentation (namely digital documen-tation archive);
2. visual monitoring carried out by teams of technicians dedicated to the inspection and control of monuments, also thanks to dedicated app that will allow to send data to the central system;
3. satellite monitoring (historical analysis of the satellite data) going directly into the system and analysed in order to monitor possible ground deformation;
4. in situ monitoring from traditional geotechnical instruments;
5. experimental activities.
Basically, the project involves the creation of a multi-parameter system of permanent control of the entire archaeological area, with the associated indicators of the level of risk, based on the combined use of innovative technologies.
In this way, the project will allow to plan, in an effective and timely manner, the necessary interventions for both ordinary and extraordinary maintenance, thus providing not only an operational tool, but also a management system for the Park with a better use of its financial resources.
As part of this monitoring project, the Parco del Colosseo requested the presence of experts from the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
The instrumental diagnostic tools are accompa-nied by satellite monitoring, already tested in the past for a short period, to obtain information on ground displacements, structures, and buildings. The use of satellite SAR interferometry technique applied to COSMO-SkyMed images is combined with the advantage of being able to use the archives of radar images that allow us to deduce, in an extensive manner, the evolution in time of more than twenty years of deformation processes. One of ASI's contributions to the monitoring project is to provide the images acquired by the COSMO-SkyMed satellites. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite data are gradually used for study applications and monitoring of cultural heritage, through multi-temporal analysis based on change detection techniques and differential interferometry (DInSAR). COSMO-SkyMed Constellation offers ideal features for routine monitoring of cultural heritage and observation in emergency situations which have been the subject of several demonstration, (pre-) operational and scientific research projects over the last sixteen years since the mission was declared fully operational. COSMO-SkyMed is the ASI SAR constellation, the only one in the world to be made up of 5 satellites operational (3 first generation and 2 second generation) in the X band, capable of providing very high spatial resolution images (up to 1m per civil use), very high acquisition frequency (revisit times up to 12 hours), in any meteorological and light conditions. The use of satellite SAR interferometry technique applied to COSMO-SkyMed images is combined with the advantage of being able to use the archives of radar images that allow us to deduce, in an extensive manner, the evolution in time of more than twenty years of deformation processes. For these reasons, the Parco also considered fundamental the satellite historical analysis of the archaeological area, carried out since 2010 until 2019. The satellite images, provided by ASI, were processed on commission by e-GEOS with interferometric technique. The data thus processed fed the web-GIS platform of the Parco’s monitoring project. (Della Giovampaola, 2021)

AIT Contribution
Sala Videoconferenza @ PoliBa
Satellite technologies for Cultural Heritage: state of the art, perspectives and Italian Space Agency contribution
Maria Virelli, Deodato Tapete

In the last 20 years, satellite technologies have been increasingly used for study, monitoring, conservation and promotion of cultural heritage, with a growing trend at both national and international levels. Recent publications critically reviewing the specialist scientific literature highlight a significant level of maturity of satellite applications in this domain (Luo et al., 2019; Tapete and Cigna, 2019a), so as satellite images collected from optical sensors have already become common data exploited by (geo-)archaeologists, researchers and heritage experts. At the same time, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technologies are increasingly being tested and exploited, also beyond the specialist image analyst community, thanks to multidisciplinary collaboration between different professionals (Tapete and Cigna, 2017) and facilitated SAR data access given the increasing provision by space agencies, also in “ready to use” formats (Tapete and Cigna, 2019b). At European level, the Italian ecosystem undoubtedly represents an excellence, given not only the long tradition in exploitation of innovative technologies for cultural heritage, but also the space sector investments into both Earth Observation missions with characteristics of image acquisition that well suit the user needs and requirements for this application domain, and initiatives promoting downstream applications and services development engaging small, medium and large enterprises. In continuity with the past decade, ASI continues launching and managing several initiatives for cultural heritage, in particular along the following directions:
• Undertaking scientific research and development, also through real-world user-driven use cases, e.g. demonstrating the performance achievable using national assets such as COSMOSkyMed data (Tapete and Cigna, 2019b; 2020);
• Supporting COSMO-SkyMed data exploitation in projects with Italian institutions (e.g. Ministry of Culture, Archaeological Park of Colosseum), and activities devoted to downstream applications and services development (e.g. in Pompeii, Capo Colonna) (Virelli et al., 2020);
• Promoting downstream by scientific, commercial and institutional users through the new programme “Innovation for Downstream Preparation” (I4DP), wherein safeguard of environment, cultural heritage and national landscape is among the key application domains.
The present paper therefore will illustrate ASI’s contribution for cultural heritage, alongside the current perspectives, in light of the COSMO-SkyMed programme (upstream) and “Multi-mission and Multi-Frequency SAR” and I4DP programmes (downstream), the latter with particular focus on the initiative dedicated to scientific users (I4DP_SCIENCE) according to the roadmap defined by Tapete & Coletta (2022).

Luo L., Wang X., Guo H., Lasaponara R., Zong X., Masini N., Wang G., Shi P., Khatteli H., Chen F. et al. (2019) Airborne and spaceborne remote sensing for archaeological and cultural heritage applications: A review of the century (1907–2017). Remote Sens. Environ., 232, 111280. doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2019.111280
Tapete D., Cigna F. (2017) Trends and perspectives of space-borne SAR remote sensing for archaeological landscape and cultural heritage applications. J. Archaeol. Sci. Reports, 14, 716–726. doi: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.07.017
Tapete D., Cigna F. (2019a) Detection of Archaeological Looting from Space: Methods, Achievements and Challenges. Remote Sens., 11, 2389. doi: 10.3390/rs11202389
Tapete D., Cigna, F. (2019b) COSMO-SkyMed SAR for detection and monitoring of archaeological
and cultural heritage sites. Remote Sens., 11, 1326. doi: 10.3390/rs11111326
Tapete D., Cigna F. (2020) Poorly known 2018 floods in Bosra UNESCO site and Sergiopolis in Syria
unveiled from space using Sentinel-1/2 and COSMO-SkyMed. Sci. Rep., 10, 12307. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-69181-x
Tapete D., Coletta A. (2022) ASI’s roadmap towards scientific downstream applications of satellite
data, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-5643. doi: 10.5194/egusphere-egu22-5643, 2022.
Virelli et al. (2020) COSMO-SkyMed: uno strumento satellitare per il monitoraggio dei beni culturali. In: Monitoraggio e Manutenzione delle Aree Archeologiche. Cambiamenti climatici, dissesto idrogeologico, degrado chimico-ambientale / Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi, Roma, Curia Iulia, 20-21 Marzo 2019 / Alfonsina Russo e Irma Della Giovampaola - (a cura di) - «L’ERMA» di BRETSCHNEIDER, 2020 - (Collana Bibliotheca Archaeologica, 65) 278 p.; ill., pp. 103112.

AIT Contribution
Sala Videoconferenza @ PoliBa
Assessment of the use of SAR satellite images for detection and mapping of post-earthquake damages, for purposes of emergency response management
Maria Virelli, Valentina Nocente, Federico Lombardo, Stefano Frittelli

The increasing availability of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite imagery has opened up new opportunities for operational support to predictive maintenance and emergency response. The first step in any emergency response is to assess the extent and the impact of the damage caused by the disaster. First responders need to recognize and to collect useful
information to mount their rescue operation effectively and quickly. There is indeed a strong link between timely rescue operations and the percentage of survived victims from natural disasters.
Therefore, it is extremely important to ensure effective deployment of rescue teams as soon as possible by means of the optimization of resources, accurate information on how to access and to settle in the affected areas, and the definition of operational priorities. To further optimize the activity on the field, it is possible to use the potential of SAR satellite analysis.
Today, several satellite SAR missions are available, characterized by different technical features in terms of wavelengths, and temporal and geometric resolutions
The COSMO-SkyMed constellation initially consisted of four identical satellites, each equipped with high-resolution microwave SAR operating in the X-band and positioned in a sun-synchronous orbit ~620 km above the Earth's surface. Subsequently, the four First Generation satellites were joined by two further Second Generation COSMO-SkyMed satellites, also based on identical satellites equipped with X-band SAR payloads and positioned on the same orbital plane as the First Generation satellites. Currently 5 COSMO-SkyMed satellites are operational, 3 of the first generation and 2 of the second generation. 2 more will be launched in the coming years.
In 2018, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Italian National Fire and Rescue Service (CNVVF) signed an agreement to approve the collaboration between the two State Administrations. The aims of the Agreement are linked to the use of technologies that use satellite data to support urgent technical rescue, a fundamental mission of firefighters.
Under the agreement, in the event of medium and large-scale emergencies, ASI makes radar-type satellite products available to the CNVVF. Through the use of these data we want to facilitate an initial assessment of the affected area, a few hours after the event, with the delimitation of the most critical areas, in order to optimize the operational response. Thanks to the COSMO-SkyMed products made available by ASI, are developed by the cartographic office of the National Corps (the TAS Central Service) products in order to support the territorial VVF offices in the planning phase and monitoring of interventions.
With the aim of investigating the performance of SAR images characterized by different geometric resolutions for the detection and mapping of post-earthquake damages, three SAR image datasets (Sentinel-1, COSMO-SkyMed Spotlight and COSMO-SkyMed StripMap) were analyzed available in Norcia (Central Italy) in the areas that were severely affected by the strong seismic sequence in 2016. We compared pairs of images with equivalent characteristics collected before and after the principal seismic event on October 30, 2016 (at 06:00:40, UTC). The results were compared with each other and then measured against the results of the post-earthquake field surveys for damage assessment, carried out by the CNVVF. Thanks to the interesting and opportunity to have COSMO-SkyMed Spotlight images before the event, we have determined that the nominal geometric resolutions 1x1-m can provide a very detailed damage mapping of a single building, while the COSMO-SkyMed StripMap HIMAGE at 3x3 resolutions they give relatively good detections of damaged buildings. As reliable given the different spatial resolution of the Interferometric Wide Swath mode, the Sentinel-1 images did not allow acquiring information on individual buildings, but simply provided approximate identifications of the most severely damaged sectors. The main results of the performance investigation that have been carried out in this work can be exploited considering the exponential growth of the satellite market in terms of revisit time and image resolution.

Mazzanti P., Scancella S., Virelli M., Frittelli S., Nocente V., Lombardo F, Assessing the performance of multi-resolution satellite SAR. images for post-earthquake damages detection and mapping. Remote Sensing of Environment.

AIT Contribution
Sala Videoconferenza @ PoliBa
Satellite technologies for infrastructures: state of the art, perspectives and Italian Space Agency contribution
Maria Virelli, Deodato Tapete

Monitoring critical infrastructures and structures (energy and transportation) is one of the application domains of national relevance for which satellite technologies may be exploited to improve detection of causative factors of deterioration, mapping of sectors at risk, and prioritization of structural and maintenance works.
Although ground-based non-destructive testing (NDT) methods have been successfully applied for decades, reaching very high standards for data quality and accuracy, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite technology and interferometric techniques (InSAR) have proved to be a real “game changer”. The impact on infrastructure monitoring was particularly significant, also in light of the increased flow of SAR data collected in different radar bands and disseminated by space agencies in these past years.
ASI’s COSMO-SkyMed constellation operating in X-band is among the satellite assets that are mostly exploited by scientific and commercial community to perform high precision and accuracy monitoring, at high spatial and temporal resolution. Recent studies undertaken by ASI following “data exploitation” initiatives of COSMO-SkyMed data have highlighted an increasing use of these data to study and monitor bridges, motorways, railways, pipelines and plants. Scientific proof of concepts and demonstrators have led to strengthening national and international expertise in the use of InSAR multi-temporal techniques, and paved the way for downstream applications and mature monitoring services.
At the same time, the global scale availability of C-band Sentinel-1 data has contributed to a further dissemination of InSAR techniques for infrastructure monitoring, although the specialist literature has highlighted the limitations due to spatial resolution, as well as the need to combine different band SAR data collected at different resolution.
From 2021 to 2023, through the “Multi-mission and Multi-Frequency SAR” Program (Tapete et al., 2022), ASI has supported R&D projects focusing on data fusion and post-processing techniques in the field of infrastructure deformation monitoring. Benefits achievable through integration of multi-band SAR data (including L-band SAOCOM) have been demonstrated.
In light of these investments and the maturity of SAR data processing algorithms for generation of application products, ASI continues their institutional mission according to the following activities:
• In the upstream sector of satellite missions, improving SAR sensors to achieve new observation capabilities with COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation (CSG) satellites and facilitating the accessibility to long time series ensuring observation continuity;
• In the downstream sector of applications and services development, promoting SAR data exploitation, also in combination with navigation and telecommunications technologies, through the new programme “Innovation for Downstream Preparation” (I4DP), wherein management and monitoring of structural stability of critical infrastructures is among the application domains of recent funding and projects initiation.
The present paper therefore will illustrate ASI’s contribution on this application domain, alongside the current perspectives, in light of the COSMO-SkyMed programme (upstream) and “Multi-mission and Multi-Frequency SAR” and I4DP programmes (downstream), the latter with particular focus on the initiative dedicated to scientific users (I4DP_SCIENCE).

Tapete et al. (2022) ASI's “Multi-mission and Multi-Frequency SAR” Program for Algorithms Development and SAR Data Integration Towards Scientific Downstream Applications. IGARSS 2022, pp. 4498-4501, doi: 10.1109/IGARSS46834.2022.9884937.

AIT Contribution
Sala Videoconferenza @ PoliBa