Micro-detail comparative forest site analysis using high-resolution satellite imagery

Chris J Cieszewski, Roger C Lowe, Pete Bettinger, Arun Kumar


This study presents comparative analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery taken on different dates around a detected incident of interest.  Under an assumption of a micro-detail land monitoring and disturbance detection interests we compared the patterns of image captured disturbances on the analyzed site and leveraged their interpretation with knowledge base published on relevant subjects.  The incident of interest was the Polish Air Force One TU-154M plane destruction on Apr. 10, 2010.  We analyzed the image changes on micro-detail level tracked over time and considered with respect to the patterns of destruction and the plane debris size distribution in space against a broad engineering literature describing destruction patterns of thin walled structures, such as planes and cars.  Then, we compared the spatial distribution of the debris between the pictures taken on different dates.  Finally, we also considered on ground changes in soil moisture and landscape features between different images. The main conclusions from the study were that: (i) the pattern of the plane destruction debris and their spatial distribution found on the ground following the catastrophe was not consistent with expectations associated with a plane crash but rather was suggestive of a plane explosion; (ii) the scene and the plane debris were manipulated over time during the very initial period after the destruction; (iii) surprisingly the numerous heavy equipment vehicles present on the site , which were much larger than the image spatial resolution, were not recorded on any of the satellite images from Apr. 11, 12, or 14, 2010;  (iv) the frequency of the high resolution satellite imagery captured around this airport on the dates of Apr. 5, 9, 11, 12, and 14, 2010, is intriguing given that the last captured image of this type prior to April 5, 2010, took place only in 2007; and (v) a large amount of snow-like high reflectivity coverage in the middle of the crash scene was followed by low reflectivity (suggestive of dry ground) areas following the crash despite generally swampy surroundings of the site and no reported explosion of the plane, which could imply a fast drying out of the melting snow large amounts of water.


Satellite images; land monitoring; Smolensk crash; Smolensk catastrophe; Smolensk birch; Polish Air Force One; TU-145M; thin walled structure crashing; image analysis; image correlation analysis.

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