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Satlas, utilizing advanced AI, transforms satellite images to detail global renewable energy projects and tree coverage, aiding the climate battle.

In a groundbreaking development, the Allen Institute for AI, established by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has unveiled a revolutionary map, Satlas, showcasing renewable energy projects and tree coverage globally. This innovation, initially shared with The Verge, employs advanced generative AI technology to enhance the clarity of satellite images captured from space, offering a more detailed view of the Earth's surface.

Satlas utilizes imagery from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellites. However, the original images are relatively unclear, necessitating the implementation of a feature named “Super-Resolution.” This feature employs deep learning models to refine the details in the images, such as the appearance of buildings, to produce high-resolution pictures.

Currently, Satlas is concentrating on providing insights into renewable energy projects and tree cover worldwide, with data being refreshed monthly. It covers the majority of the globe, excluding some regions of Antarctica and distant open oceans. The tool displays solar farms, onshore and offshore wind turbines, and allows users to observe alterations in tree canopy coverage over time, providing crucial insights for policymakers striving to achieve environmental and climate objectives. According to the Allen Institute, this is the first time such a comprehensive tool has been made available to the public at no cost.

This innovation is also one of the inaugural demonstrations of super-resolution in a global map. However, like other generative AI models, Satlas is still susceptible to inaccuracies or “hallucinations,” where the model might depict buildings and objects in inaccurate shapes or place them in incorrect locations due to the model's limitations in predicting regional architectural differences and object placements.

It shows solar farms and onshore and offshore wind turbines. You can also use it to see how tree canopy coverage has changed over time. Those are important insights for policymakers trying to meet climate and other environmental goals. But there’s never been a tool this expansive that’s free to the public, according to the Allen Institute.

To create Satlas, the team at the Allen Institute meticulously analyzed satellite images to label numerous features such as wind turbines, offshore platforms, solar farms, and tree cover canopy percentages. This extensive labeling was crucial for training the deep learning models to independently identify these features. For super-resolution, the models were provided with multiple low-resolution images of the same location captured at different times, enabling the model to predict sub-pixel details in the high-resolution images it generates.

According to The Verge, the Allen Institute has ambitious plans to enhance Satlas further, intending to include additional maps that can identify various crop types planted worldwide. Ani Kembhavi, the senior director of computer vision at the Allen Institute, stated that the objective was to develop a foundational model for monitoring the planet. This foundational model can then be fine-tuned for specific tasks and the AI predictions can be made available to scientists for studying the impacts of climate change and other global phenomena.

This development marks a significant stride in utilizing advanced AI technology for environmental monitoring and conservation, providing invaluable resources for scientists and policymakers working towards a sustainable future. The availability of such detailed and enhanced imagery is poised to revolutionize the way we understand and interact with our planet, offering unprecedented insights into the ongoing environmental changes and challenges.

Eunice is a sustainability writer whose passion is sharing accessible eco-friendly practices with GreenCitizen's global readership. She enjoys birdwatching during her downtime, often deriving inspiration from nature's resilience. An enthusiastic cyclist, she is also an ardent advocate of eco-friendly transport.

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