In remote sensing projects from space, UNESCO brings together organisations with earth observing satellites, research institutions and managers of World Heritage sites and biosphere reserves. UNESCO helps to make available satellite images, to create software tools to improve site management, to train users of such tools and to safeguard its viability in the long run. This framework is called "Open Initiative" and its aim is to prevent the damage to natural and cultural heritage sites through natural disasters or through global environmental change. One of UNESCO's main tasks is to guarantee that data is not being used for purposes different than the project's objectives.
The German Aerospace Center DLR and UNESCO cooperate in the framework of the „Open Initiative“ since 2007. DLR provides remote sensing data from earth observation satellites for free, if they fulfil the Open Initiative criteria. DLR offers access to the data of German space missions available in its archives. It is also possible to acquire new images of the remote sensing satellite TerraSAR-X. Project proposals can be submitted by governments, monument conservators, nature conservationists, development agencies or researchers.
A current example is a research project of the University of Sydney. The Australian researchers observe the World Heritage Site Angkor Wat with the satellite TerraSAR-X and compare their findings with aerial pictures and radar mappings depicting underground structures. In the landscape surrounding Angkor Wat there are vast drain networks and other water distribution systems. The satellite pictures of DLR improve the understanding of the Khemr water management systems. In the frame of the "Greater Angkor Project" of the University of Sydney, the data will be provided to the local monument authority APSARA.
Research projects of the Open Initiative of DLR (satellite TerraSAR-X) have to be submitted first through the DLR website sss.terrasar-x.dlr.de. Projects will be evaluated according to normal criteria of good scientific practice. Project proposals that have received a proposal registration number, can apply to DUK for free satellite data use (stating their registration number) using the following electronic form. In this cooperation, DUK is acting on behalf of UNESCO.