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Posted on April 5th, 2016

Our Changing Landscape – Beijing Nanyuan Airport

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with time series of medium resolution RapidEye satellite imagery. The RapidEye archive dates back to late 2008 and already contains more than 7 billion square kilometers of data. This month we turn our attention to a recently expanded airport located in China, Beijing Nanyuan Airport.

The RapidEye Constellation

RapidEye is a constellation of five 5-meter medium resolution satellites each offering five spectral bands of information. The RapidEye constellation offers daily revisits to every location on the planet with a huge footprint that is 77-km wide. The data is priced competitively with a starting cost of $1.28 per square kilometer for all five spectral bands – academics do receive discounts. RapidEye adds a fifth band, the red edge, to the ‘traditional’ multispectral set of blue, green, red and near-infrared (NIR). The additional spectral data in the red edge band allows users to extract more useful land ‘information’ than can be from traditional 4-band imagery sources. When RapidEye imagery is ordered as a Level 3A Orthorectified product, images from multiple dates are extremely well registered, making it the ideal data source for Our Changing Landscape.

The Expansion of Beijing Nanyuan Airport

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color RapidEye imagery collected over Beijing Nanyuan Airport, China on April 1, 2010, July 7, 2011, August 9, 2012 and May 5, 2014. In these images, you can see the construction of the single new terminal at the north end of the airport. The 2014 image was included to be sure the construction dates noted above were accurate, and they appear to be so! To give you a sense of scale, the new terminal measures about 540-meters north to south and then 265-meters east to west. (Images Courtesy: BlackBridge)

Beijing is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing metropolises – and with its 11 million plus residents, there is always the need for additional airplane capacity. In 2010, there were only two airports in the city: Capital and Nanyuan. Nanyuan Airport is located about 8 miles south of the tragically-famous landmark, Tiananmen Square. It is actually the oldest airport in China, opened in 1910 (another resource says 1904) as a military airbase. For commercial passengers, China United Airlines is the only airline that serves Nanyuan, in fact it is the location of their main hub. In 2008 (at least according to the research we did which is always a challenge for Chinese locations), the total number of passengers increased to over 1,350,000 which was up 80% over the previous year.

In 2010, a $30 million single terminal expansion of Nanyuan Airport was announced. The new terminal was built by mid-2012 with a final built out cost of about $53 million. It appears the terminal was first used on June 8, 2012 but was not officially unveiled until July 12th. The new terminal is a bit over 107,000 square feet in size, which doubled the terminal area of Nanyuan. With the second terminal, the airport can now handle some 6 million passengers annually. As of 2011, Nanyuan had a passenger throughput of 2,644,598 people meaning that the new terminal opened just in time as it could only serve about 2.8 million before the expansion. Even with its multi-million dollar expansion, Nanyuan is likely to be shut down when the mega-facility, Beijing Daxing International Airport, is built – it is scheduled for completion in 2018. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the 5-meter RapidEye imagery record to see how the construction of Nanyuan’s new terminal progressed through time.

If you would like to find out more about using RapidEye for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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