Looks like some regional Chinese officials on the take have been found out, thanks to Chinese imagery satellites. According to this South China Morning Post article, the first of the latest generation of Chinese imagery satellites, Gaofen-1, has been imaging an area in China that contained a very big marijuana farm. The whacky weed farm is the biggest ever discovered since 1949. Such a time span seems to indicate the pot farmers were very good at hiding their crops (possible), but maybe, in exchange for a small, unreported fee, local authorities weren’t trying very hard to disclose this newest discovery to their bigger brothers in the Chinese big-government sector.
Either way, the satellite’s images of the marijuana fields show a steady progression in Chinese imagery technology and Earth observation capabilities. So perhaps their satellite imagery sensors are close to where US satellite technology was over 10 years ago. This upgrade in imagery resolution might have caught someone off-guard, because there are certain ways to obscure these green ganjas, learned from US satellite plant detection attempts. A simple search query “US Satellites marijuana detection” on DuckDuckGo immediately yielded a 420 Caribbean site with suggestions for how and where to plant marijuana crops to avoid overhead surveillance detection.
Those avoidance methods may or may not work. Remember, some satellites, like DigitalGlobe’s Worldview-3, have different energy/color bands to detect particular wavelengths. I’ve written about this sort of thing, here–start with Part 15, but 16 (careful, a small informational error in this article, but still useful), 17 (addresses error), 18, and a few others have wavelength/color information, too. Apparently someone already learned some obscuration lessons (as evidenced by the 420 post), thanks to US and ESA drug war efforts, that Chinese Mary Jane cultivators are now re-learning. Maybe China’s Great Firewall doesn’t allow easy access to such information?
The South China Morning Post’s article also noted that Gaofen-1 has helped analysts find opium fields and smuggling tunnels. But, as I’ve noted with the Malaysian Airlines MH370 situation and why imagery satellites are having a difficult time with that mystery, the satellite operators have to know where to look in order to find the fields and tunnels. So maybe some clever detective or miffed MAFIA-type gave a tip of where to look.
Gaofen-1 is one of two Gaofen satellites orbiting the Earth. According to the Post, the Chinese would like to increase the number of satellites for their imagery constellation to seven, which means they will have beat DigitalGlobe’s current constellation of 5 imagery satellites. But this kind of thing changes all the time, and government plans, even from a very top-down style of government, are very prone to political whims.