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Posted on February 2nd, 2016

Our Changing Landscape – Hamad 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 contains more than 7 billion square kilometers of data. For February, we travel around the world from the Kemper County Energy Project to one of the world’s newest mega-airports, Hamad International Airport, in Doha, Qatar.

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.

Hamad International Airport

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color RapidEye imagery collected over Hamad International Airport in Qatar on December 14, 2009, December 26, 2011, December 4, 2013 and April 4, 2015. In this animation you will see significant changes in the airport’s infrastructure, particular with regards to the runways and the buildings at the north end of the facility. You can also see how much refuse was removed from the site of Hamad International Airport to the west. (Images Courtesy: BlackBridge)

Qatar is one of the richest nations in the world with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding $100,000 – depending on the source you look at. With all of this wealth comes plans to modernize a nation, and so in 2003 plans commenced to replace the 4.2-million passenger per year Doha International Airport. In 2004, the engineering firm, Bechtel Group Inc., was selected to design the new airport, Hamad International Airport (HIA), as well as manage its construction. Originally scheduled to open in 2008 (some sources say 2009), the airport was delayed some eight years, opening its doors on April 30, 2014 after ~$18 billion was spent on its construction.

All of the reviews of HIA suggest it is one of the most technologically-modern and architecturally-inspiring airports in the world, and here are some statistics that will impress you the most:

  • The 33 gates (some sources say 40 or 41 gates) at HIA can handle 30 million (some sources say 24 million) passengers a year or more than 7 times the capacity of the old Doha International Airport.
  • HIA is being built just four miles from Doha International Airport on a 5,400-acres (about 22 square kilometers) site which is two-thirds the size of Doha and 12 times larger than the old airport. 60% of HIA (or 2.2 billion cubic feet) was built on land reclaimed from the Arabian Gulf. The project also required the cleanup of a landfill where 230 million cubic feet of debris was removed.
  • There are two parallel runways at HIA, the first is 15,910 feet (ft) x 200 ft (one of the longest in Asia) and the second is 13,940 ft x 200 ft.
  • The onsite 740,000 sq ft catering facility serves 90,000 meals per day.
  • The airport control tower is 280 ft tall with a 5.5 million sq ft passenger terminal.
  • HIA features more than 70 stores, 30 restaurants, 200 hotel rooms, 16 lounges and even 2 squash courts.
  • The fully automated baggage handling system can handle 19,500 bags per hour!

As large as HIA is, Qatar is already planning a major $8 billion expansion of the airport scheduled for completion in 2020. The expanded airport is expected to handle 50 million passengers per year and will double both the number of gates and terminal area. There are also plans for a 100-room five star hotel. Now that you have a sense of the scale of this project, it is time to check out the 5-meter RapidEye images here that track its progress from 2009 to 2015.

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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