You can't protect the environment if you don't know accurately what is happening to it, Kansas University professor Costas Tsatsoulis said.
That's the basic premise behind Tsatsoulis' latest work. The chairman of KU's electrical engineering and computer science department has received a $638,000 grant from NASA for a project that ultimately aids in the study of changes to the surface of the planet.
"Unless we know what the state of the environment is we don't know what needs to be done," he said.
Tsatsoulis will work to improve the sensors that measure physical phenomena, such as the melting of ice sheets, floods, oil spills or changes to land cover.
Tsatsoulis will help develop smarter sensors able to predict what to measure next. A satellite sensor measuring an ice sheet, for example, could sense changes to the ice sheet and then deploy an unmanned flying vehicle to make additional measurements that could be sent to scientists.
"What we want is for the sensors to be able to make decisions of what to measure and where to measure, and to send constellations of sensors that make measurements of a specific area," he said.
Groups, or constellations, of sensors would provide better measurements of physical phenomena than scientists can currently take.
Prasad Gogineni, KU distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of KU's Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, said researchers are working to reduce the human footprint in Antarctica.
"This research is a step towards that," he said.