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Interview with Deodato Tapete, a Researcher in Earth Observation at the Italian Space Agency (ASI)

Publication date: 04.17.2024

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Interview with Deodato Tapete, a Researcher in Earth Observation at the Italian Space Agency (ASI)

How can space data be used to have a significant impact on-ground on the management of UNESCO heritage sites in the Veneto Region?

This is the question around which the 2024 edition of VeneTo Stars revolves, the Challenge launched as part of the Veneto Digital Agenda and aimed at young European innovators under 25.

The theme of this challenge, which follows last year’s successful and highly participative edition dedicated to agrifood, enhances the richness of the Veneto region, which boasts no less than nine UNESCO heritage sites.

The Challenge can also count on the support of top-level partners, whom we will be interviewing over the course of the weeks to address the issues related to this edition of VeneTo Stars.

After the interviews with Arianna Traviglia (read more here) and Marco Casucci (read more here), let’s continue with the contribution of Deodato Tapete, a Researcher in Earth Observation at the Italian Space Agency (ASI), specialised in satellite image analysis for environmental monitoring, natural and anthropic risk assessment and applications for cultural heritage conservation.

For more than 10 years he has been working on satellite technologies, mainly radar-based, for UNESCO heritage and cultural landscapes, with experience on archaeological and monumental sites in Italy, the UK, Middle East and South America. In his previous work assignments, he has been employed by the National Research Council, the University of Durham as a Marie Curie Research Fellow and the Natural Environment Research Council UK.

He is currently ASI representative in the ASI – Ministry of Culture Collaboration Agreement for the “Extraordinary Plan for Monitoring and Preservation of Fixed Cultural Heritage”.

As part of this collaboration, the Italian Space Agency will provide data acquired by the COSMO-SkyMed Earth Observation satellite system (the Italian Space Agency’s flagship Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite constellation), developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence.

The project involves the development and integration of different observation and calibration technologies to implement a satellite monitoring plan integrated with the instrumental one on site. To sum up, the plan has two fundamental goals:

  • monitoring the most vulnerable buildings and artefacts of cultural interest;
  • offering property owners and managers, as well as the institutions involved in various ways, a decision-making support instrument that enables the manager of the individual asset to activate the necessary operating procedures and conservation measures to safeguard them.

ASI has renewed its collaboration with VeneTo Stars also for this edition. What kind of value do you recognise in this Challenge?

“These are initiatives that have great value in terms of the return we can have especially in the younger generations. These challenges, as a focal point, are able to involve the younger generations which we hope will increasingly cultivate a passion for space and feel part of the space world by proposing their ideas. For us, these initiatives are very important because not only allow the Agency to contribute to an initiative that spreads space culture, but also allow us to learn from the younger generation and, at the same time, to make them play a role in the space world environment”.

What is your view about the contribution satellite data can make to the protection of cultural heritage and UNESCO sites?

“The topic chosen for this Challenge could not have been of greater interest to the Agency. We have been working for at least 15 years in various national and international collaborations on the preservation of cultural heritage and the discovery of new archaeological sites. The VeneTo Stars Challenge insists on a subject on which we are confident that satellite data provide a contribution that allows us, for example, to recognise sites yet to be discovered, traces on the surface that suggest the presence of monuments yet to be excavated. On the other hand, we have the major application, with COSMO-SkyMed satellites, for what concerns structural monitoring. Here the contribution is palpable, as we are working with the Ministry of Culture on an extraordinary National Plan for the monitoring and conservation of real estate that is based precisely on satellite data. We are sure that there is still room for improvement in their use, but there is also the possibility of opening up new avenues. I will point out one, which I hope will also be selected by those participating in the Challenge. ASI recently launched one of the few hyperspectral satellites, PRISMA, a precursor to other hyperspectral missions in a European context. Even though there are still few studies on how to use hyperspectral data, it allows us, as we say, to see the world in a thousand colours. It would be really interesting to understand their contribution to the detection of buried structures. Therefore, we expect that the contribution already established for both conservation and monitoring, as well as for knowledge, will be enriched even more. This is because we are improving the performance of satellite missions and encouraging more and more users of these data. Lastly, we hope that the Challenge will bring new ideas by exploiting new technologies”.

Citing Paolo Nespoli, former ESA astronaut, who spoke as a guest of the Veneto Region during the Veneto World Health Forum in Padua, “A young innovator should dream the impossible and try to achieve it”. Do you find yourself in this approach?

“I have had the pleasure of meeting Paolo Nespoli at other events and I certainly agree, not only because someone so authoritative on the subject said so, but also because he described exactly what the key element of innovation is: the ability to see something that others cannot see or have not yet seen. Even me, many years ago when I did my PhD, I focused on satellite applications for cultural heritage. At the time, there were no studies showing that these monitoring technologies for structural deformations could be used for the protection of cultural heritage. There were no comparative research reports, but today this monitoring has become an instrument which is used by companies as well. I would like this small personal experience become an encouragement for those who want to be innovative. To do so, one must certainly go beyond what is already known”.

 

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22 Maggio 2024

Presentation of the Challenge at the UNESCO in Paris

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22 Maggio 2024

Interview with Deodato Tapete, a Researcher in Earth Observation at the Italian Space Agency (ASI)

Deodato Tapete, a Researcher in Earth Observation at the Italian Space Agency (ASI), specialised in satellite image analysis for environmental monitoring, natural and anthropic risk assessment and applications for cultural heritage conservation.

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22 Maggio 2024

Interview with Marco Casucci, Space Program, IPT-ESA member. EO development Local PA Sector

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