Cultural Heritage Protection Service (UNOSAT)


Cultural property is of great importance for humanity and cultural heritage sites in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions are being deliberately targeted in recent armed conflicts, resulting in damage, looting and in some cases total destruction. In addition, natural heritage sites nowadays are under constant myriad of threats ranging from climate change, construction of infrastructure and housing to mining and quarrying.

The use of modern technologies has proven extremely valuable, not only to keep track of events, but also in view of providing communities with sufficient documentation that could help dealing with the inflicted trauma and to contribute to future reconstruction efforts.

Solution benefits

  • Place cultural heritage sites under regular monitoring through the use of satellite imagery to produce periodic reports. 
  • Systematic monitoring will help document
    historic events and damages, which will be very important in view of justice, and possible recovery, reconstruction and determent.
  • Regular monitoring of sites can also help in devising preventive conservation measures and set risk management mechanisms as a documentation tool of urban and territorial modifications through time.

Key technical features

  • Development of a number of change detection algorithms to provide an output of changes or more precisely, changes on surface brightness levels given an input two or more images acquired at different times over the same cultural significant area.

Case studies

In 2018, UNOSAT conducted a series of tests to develop the change detection algorithm with the cooperation of CERN openlab. The result was the development of a change detection system that accurately detected damaged structures in the World Heritage Site of Palmyra in Syria between August and September 2015 using high-resolution satellite images.