Fig. 1. A contrast of restricted and unrestricted satellite imagery of buildings in the West Bank, with a Maxar Technologies image (taken 22 August 2013) at 2m+ GSD on the left, and an Airbus image (taken 15 November 2013) at c.0.5m on the right. Map Data: Google Earth.

EAMENA leads reform on satellite imagery restrictions in the Levant

On 25 June 2020 it was announced at the 27th meeting of the Advisory Council on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES) of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment (KBA) restrictions on the optical resolution of satellite imagery over Israel would be dramatically lowered from the current level of 2m Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) down to 0.4m GSD.

Fig.1. A 1930s vertical photograph over the pyramid complex at Giza, Egypt, generously shared with the project by Owen Masters.

Reflections on the EAMENA aerial photograph appeal

Back in early 2017 we started trying to develop access to historic aerial photographs for the MENA region to support the work of the EAMENA project. This work was primarily driven by the need to access high-resolution imagery for The Occupied Palestinian Territories, where U.S. legislation known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment limited the resolution of contemporary commercial satellite imagery for this area. It also built on the earlier work of Professor David Kennedy’s work on our sister project, APAAME, in gathering these historic aerial photographs and our colleague Rebecca Repper’s work in digitising the Sir Aurel Stein and O.G.S. Crawford collections at the British Academy and UCL respectively.

Jordan Valley Fig 1

Looking back at the Jordan Valley

We have recently uploaded an important set of vertical aerial photographs covering the eastern side of the northern section of the River Jordan as Information Resource records on the EAMENA database. These photographs, taken in late 1930 by ‘B’ Flight of 45 Squadron of the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) while attached to 14 Squadron RAF, provide a unique insight into this landscape prior to more recent settlement development and agricultural intensification. We can use these photographs to identify archaeological sites that have not previously been documented, many of which have subsequently been covered or destroyed by later development.