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Posted on May 3rd, 2016

Our Changing Landscape – Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International 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. For May, our focus stays on recently expanded airports with a look at Zambia’s Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport.

The RapidEye Constellation

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color RapidEye imagery collected over Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport, Zambia on October 7, 2010, October 9, 2011, June 30, 2012 and November 14, 2013. In these images, you can see more change perhaps in the colors of the surrounding landscape than over the airport itself. If you look at the center of the image, you can see the construction of the new terminal which looks to be complete in the final November 2013 image. The new terminal measures about 110-meters wide by 35-meters tall. (Images Courtesy: BlackBridge)

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 Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport

In 1989, Zambia created the National Airports Corporation Limited (NACL) to develop, manage and expand the nation’s four international airports: Kenneth Kaunda, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula (HMN), Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe and Mfuwe. HMN is located in southern Zambia on the outskirts of Livingstone, which is the closest major city to the iconic Victoria Falls. In fact, HMN is just over 7 miles from the falls. HMN was built in 1952 and in 2000 it handled just 8,963 international passengers. However, by 2011, the airport handled 203,803 international passengers – that is one impressive increase in volume!

Given the significant increase in international tourism at HMN, it is no surprise that the NACL earmarked some $40 million in funds to build a new terminal at the airport and to upgrade the old one. Construction on the new international terminal commenced in August 2010 and was managed by the local construction company, Flame Group. The new terminal was partially opened on August 21, 2013 to its first international passengers with all construction on the expansion expected to be completed by November 2013 (we could not independently verify this however – perhaps the RapidEye imagery will help with this!). In 2015, NACL announced another round of expansions to HMN with a $50 million to $300 million budget, depending on the source you might believe is correct. Admittedly details on the size of the new terminal, the number of passengers it can handle, etc. are hard to find, and this might be the only resource that looks to have some of these. So then it’s time to turn to the 5-meter RapidEye record to track the progress of the 2010 to 2013 HMN construction project.

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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