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Although satellite imaging is widely used today, an airborne survey system is still more efficient and effective under certain circumstances. Airborne survey can successfully detect and transmit target information in real time that is useful and critical for related agencies, such as environmental management, natural-disaster monitor and control, etc. Using a real-time synthetic-aperture-radar image processing approach based on a distribution system, image data are synchronized with a global positioning system; a satellite-communication system of data transmission is designed and implemented; and a novel image-compression method, which is wavelet-based, is developed. The main idea of the proposed system is based on a function-distribution personal computer (PC) system: Data preprocessing, post processing, and extraction of images, data processing, image display, and image printing, are performed by different PCs. The method of image transmission proposed here is based on the satellite communication system. The proposed system has the advantage of low cost (both hardware prototype and maintenance) and rapid processing speed (only in several seconds; the disaster images from the air are processed and transmitted to the Disaster Reduction Center and to other users by the satellite communication system). The system has been applied to a real-time disaster monitor (such as a forest fire, a flood, etc.), real-time target tracking, large-scale topographic mapping, environmental survey, etc.