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The Canal Seine Nord Europe stands as a monumental testament to modern engineering, arguably the most significant civil engineering project in Europe this century. With its vast scale, the project encompasses a decade of work, stretches over 100 kilometers, and involves the excavation of more than 70 million cubic meters of soil. Yet its ambitions go beyond mere construction; it aims to transform goods transportation in Europe, promising to divert approximately 5 million trucks from the roads annually, significantly reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion.

This initiative aligns with contemporary environmental goals, marking a bold step forward in an era committed to curbing global warming and protecting biodiversity. By bridging the fluvial networks of Northern Europe with the Seine Maritime, it paves the way for more sustainable goods transportation across the continent.

The project has garnered support from the French Region Haut de France, French government, and the European Union, all demanding regular updates on progress and environmental impact. However, the project’s sheer scale challenges traditional monitoring methods, such as drones, which fall short in providing the needed comprehensive data.

Disaitek approached in mid-2022 to pioneer a satellite-derived data solution. After a year of rigorous discussion and negotiation, Disaitek was entrusted with an experimental contract to oversee the project’s progress and its environmental footprint. Our commitment spans three critical areas:

  • Work Progress Monitoring: We ensure meticulous measurement and traceability for excavated soils and oversee the construction progress of roads and fluvial locks and ancillary works.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment: Our high-precision mapping technology tracks vegetation and supports a nature-based compensation program, alongside automated crop identification.
  • Encroachment Detection: We vigilantly monitor operational boundary exceedances, illegal land use, and road deterioration.

We task the Pléaides satellite on a monthly basis, both mono and stéréo depending on location and use cases, to provide detailed imagery to feed our algorithms and AI models, achieving remarkable success in our objectives. Our GIS-based platform offers stakeholders easy access to a wealth of analyses across these domains.

As our experimental phase nears completion, we stand on the brink of negotiations to establish our platform as the project’s monitoring tool during its construction and exploitation phases.

SDGs-EYES is a three – year Horizon Europe Research and innovation action (RIA) project (January 2023 – January 2026) that aims to strengthen Europe’s capacity to monitor the the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the basis of Copernicus by building a portfolio of decision-making tools to monitor SDG indicators related to the environment from a cross-sectoral perspective and in line with the priorities and challenges of the EU Green Deal. 

Led by a consortium of 10 partners representing diverse disciplines, SDGs-EYES embodies the spirit of collaboration, cross-fertilization, and knowledge integration. One of the key strengths of SDGs-EYES lies in its ability to combine data from Copernicus’s six core services to develop more accurate SDG indicators. Through a scientific and technological framework, EARSC is leading the using engagement of the project facilitating access to Earth Observation (EO) information while enhancing its usability for a wide range of stakeholders, as e.g. national statistical offices, SDG custodian agencies such as FAO, UNEP, the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) or the Working Group on Geospatial Information (WGGI), etc.

In addition to its core objectives, SDGs-EYES embarks on a pilot-driven approach. Indeed, the project solutions are demonstrated through four EU and one non EU pilot areas (Sahel Countries, North Sea area, City of Turin (Italy), Romania, and Cosenza province (Italy). 

Overall, SDGs-EYES aims to:

  1. Facilitate Access and Increase Usability of EO Information: SDGs-EYES focuses on designing and developing a robust framework for aggregating and processing EO data provided by Copernicus’s core services and the space and in-situ components. By improving the accessibility and usability of EO information, the project empowers stakeholders with valuable insights for decision-making.
  2. Improve Reliability, Robustness, and Accuracy of SDG Indicators: Through a pilot-driven approach, SDGs-EYES demonstrates the potential of Copernicus-enhanced measurement for six SDG indicators related to SDG13 Climate Action, SDG14 Life Below Water, SDG15 Life on Land, and a cross-goal indicator will be also formulated to explore the exposure of vulnerable communities under cumulative climate extreme. These indicators are evidence of the project’s commitment to advancing the quality and accuracy of SDG monitoring efforts.
  3. Advance Stakeholder Capacity in SDG Monitoring: SDGs-EYES seeks to empower stakeholders by creating a range of user-friendly data products tailored to simplify the tracking and reporting of specific SDGs. These service-oriented products are developed, showcased, and co-designed in collaboration with a diverse community of users and stakeholders within designated pilot areas.

More information about the project are available on the website: and on the project social media channels: LinkedIn (  and X (@SDGsEYES)

GAF AG and ESA have started a project to enable long term preservation of and public accessibility to the EO data archive of the Indian Remote Sensing satellites IRS-1C and IRS-1D. The data had been collected over Europe between 1996-2005, during the pre-Sentinel era. The preservation and free and open distribution of IRS-1C and IRS-1D satellite data will improve public access to heritage data over Europe from the pre-Sentinel period. It will also support long term analyses of climate-relevant key indicators and land cover and land use trends that are relevant to Climate Change and Green Deal policies and action in Europe.

Munich/Neustrelitz, Germany, 5 September 2023

 “Our archive of pre-Sentinel Earth observation data is very extensive and important in its potential reuse value as well as scientific, historical and public significance,” says Dr. Gernot Ramminger, CEO of GAF AG. “With satellite data from the Indian Remote Sensing satellites IRS-1C and IRS-1D, long-term developments of land cover and land use can be documented and compared to more recent findings, relevant to Climate Change and European Green Deal policies. Hence our decision and agreement with ESA to start a project to preserve the data and make it publicly accessible.”

The project activities are carried out and funded under the European Space Agency’s Heritage Space Programme. The project is also supported by the Indian Space Agency ISRO and its commercial arm Antrix with the respective licensing policy as well as the delivery of specific hardware and software components.

In a first phase, an environment to transcribe the satellite data from magnetic tapes into a computer readable raw data format, to process the raw data into system-corrected products, to archive, format and transfer both data levels to ESA according to ESA specifications for distribution will be jointly set up, tested and evaluated.

In a second phase, GAF’s entire archive of IRS-1C and IRS-1D data covering Europe and northern Africa will be transcribed and processed to create raw data products and system-corrected products. All the products will be transferred to ESA, which will distribute the IRS-1C and IRS-1D data under a free and open licence to all users for any use.

GAF will retransfer a copy of all the products to ISRO, the owner of the satellites and the data.

At the end of the project, the ESA archives will contain panchromatic data from the PAN sensor with 5.8 m resolution. It will also include multispectral data from the LISS‑III sensor (with 23 m resolution in two visible and one NIR band as well as 70 m resolution in a SWIR band), and from the WiFS sensor (with 188 m resolution in the red and NIR bands), acquired between 1996 and 2005.

The PAN sensor provided the highest commercially available resolution until Ikonos was launched in September 1999. And in the multispectral domain the systematic acquisitions of LISS‑III and WiFS complemented the image acquisitions made by other multispectral sensors.

Caption picture; from left to right:

Ms Basavaraju Santhi Sree and Ms Manju Sarma (both National Remote Sensing Centre, ISRO), Mr Roberto Biasutti (ESA) and Frithjof Barner (GAF AG, Neustrelitz) at the site of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in Neustre­litz with the antenna TriBand II.

Image: GAF AG

About ESA / ESRIN:    

ESRIN, the ESA Centre for Earth Observation, is one of the five ESA specialised centres situated in Europe. Located in Frascati, a small town 20 km south of Rome in Italy, ESRIN was established in 1966 and first began acquiring data from environmental satellites in the 1970s. Since 2004, ESRIN has been the headquarters for ESA's Earth observation activities.

In addition to providing users with data from its own Earth observation satellites, ESA has for many years provided users with access to a number of non-ESA EO missions – so called Third-Party Missions (TPM). ESA’s TPM scheme has been running for more than 40 years, providing EO data to users in Europe and around the world, and currently includes over 60 instruments on more than 50 missions. Through the Heritage programme, ESA is actively working in order to provide free and open access to satellite data acquired by and over Europe, enabling long term studies on our planet.

About GAF AG:

GAF AG, an e-GEOS (Telespazio/ASI) company, is one of the largest European providers of data, products and information services in the fields of geo-information, spatial IT and consulting for private and public clients. As a result of a merger with its former subsidiary Euromap GmbH, GAF has become the exclusive supplier in Europe of optical Indian remote sensing data from several missions. The company’s archives contain systematic coverage of Europe and northern Africa since 1996, and include satellite raw data from the high and medium resolution IRS missions IRS‑1C, IRS-1D, Resourcesat-1, Resourcesat-2 and Cartosat-1. GAF is also specialised in the production of orthoimage mosaics and digital elevation models from various high and very-high resolution satellite missions. The company is part of the Telespazio Group, which belongs to Leonardo and Thales, two major European technology firms.


National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) is one of the primary centres of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Department of Space (DOS). NRSC establishes ground stations for receiving satellite data, generates data products, disseminates to the users, develops techniques for remote sensing applications including disaster management support, geospatial services for good governance and capacity building. NRSC hosts Satellite Data Products from more than 15 Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites right from the first IRS optical mission namely IRS-1A, SAR imaging missions and foreign missions through web portal for Indian and international users.

The EOMORES project has developed a series of services for monitoring the quality of inland and coastal water bodies, using both in situ and EO data. On the verge of launching its commercial activities, EOMORES is proud to announce the launch of the EOMORES Portal.

Algal blooms (chlorophyll-a concentration) in lake Võrtsjärv, Estonia. Information about such blooms is important for bathing water quality, as proxy for eutrophication and for the ecological status of a lake.

EOMORES[1] is using data from EO satellites in addition to in situ sensors to measure, model and forecast water quality parameters. By using EO data, EOMORES services overcome traditional issues that in situ-only water sampling may encounter, as having to take samples physically for analysis in a laboratory can be both costly and time-consuming. Particularly problematic in this sense may be remote or difficult to reach locations.

In said context, the free and open data from the Copernicus Sentinels satellites, known for the long-term availability, as well as for its spatial and temporary resolution, prove as an optimal mean for complementing in situ measurements for more complete and less costly services destined, inter alia, for reporting under the Water Framework Directive: an obligation pending on each EU member state.

But EOMORES services are not only for local authorities and policymakers. The newly launched EOMORES Portal allows any interested stakeholder in the field of inland and coastal water quality measurement to become a user of the EOMORES portal and browse between several data layers, (e.g. choosing to only concentrate on high-frequency in situ measurements taken by a WISPstation) or explore time series and even export downloaded data into the user’s own GIS software.

The Lithuanian Curonian Lagoon, with high turbidity in areas with massive cyanobacteria blooms. The two WISPstations provide high-frequent in situ measurements of the water quality.

You can visit the portal at to see an example map. If you wish to see more, please contact us at info(at)

[1] This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement n° 730066.

Copernicus – a game-changer in academia-business relationships

The Space sector in Europe has been boosted by the Copernicus programme, bringing ample socio-economic and environmental benefits to public sector, businesses and citizens. To foster a globally competitive European space sector and ensure European autonomy in accessing and using space in a safe and secure environment, it is necessary to stimulate the integration of space into European economy and society.

Authors: Stefan Lang, Department of Geoinformatics – Z_GIS & Peter Zeil, Spatial Services GmbH

The unique investment of the European Member States into the development and operation of Copernicus provides the data resources for innovative solutions to crucial challenges faced by our societies. For innovation to be realized, a constant stream of inventions (from research) needs to be validated as robust and relevant through the adoption by diverse user communities. For the maximisation of the impact of Copernicus, sustainable user uptake activities are required, strongly supported by the Copernicus Academy and Copernicus Relays networks.

The DT-SPACE-07-BIZ-2018 funded action CopHub.AC ( creates a knowledge and innovation hub, demonstrating several technical and procedural pillars (Gateway, Research Briefs, Knowledge Landscape, CitizenApp, etc.) to foster and link ongoing R&D activities in Copernicus-relevant academic fields, and to sustain the innovation process from academia to businesses on the highest possible scientific and technical level. Our clear commitment is a full thematic and geographic coverage for a Europe-wide boost in demand-driven uptake of space technology and geospatial information at its most effective rate. Our vision is to establish a Copernicus hub to consolidate and sustain the Copernicus Academy as a knowledge and innovation network. In order to strengthen the R&D dimension, the expertise and tools available at the network level need to be used at the service of research and innovation with the aim to boost their innovation potential.. To this end, twelve partners from academia (PLUS, UMA, KU Leuven, KU MRI., UNIBAS, CUT), businesses (SpaSe, Evenflow, rasdaman) and associations (EARSC, GISIG, Climate-KIC), ensure a highly complementary expertise across application domains and sectors.

Copernicus Academy – an emerging network

When its vision was laid out in 2012, the founders of the (then) GMES Academy could hardly foresee its impact a few years later. With some 150 members from the public and private sector, including from outside Europe, the Copernicus Academy has been growing into an invaluable pool of experts, application know-how, emerging from pooling the various types of expertise, trans-national, trans-domain, trans-sectoral.

The envisaged space hub will grow and support the Academy by dedicated activities such as mapping and monitoring activities, and liaising between its members in regard to initiatives of interest for the network, such as events and educational opportunities (summer schools, post-graduate scholarships, etc.). In particular we aim at:

- Maintaining. sharing, and developing novel communication tools to ensure update about latest events, info sessions, Copernicus lectures, new members, new training tools availability, best practices, academic curricula, funding opportunities;

- Interacting with the Copernicus Entrusted Entities, Copernicus partners and local actors, as tomorrow’s entrepreneurs are today’s students; distributing publications and reference lectures for training on Copernicus data and information use, under a public license; strengthening the synergies and cooperation by sharing knowledge building, best practices and Copernicus-related research and applications; helping developed innovations to hit the market as quickly as possible; establishing dedicated vocational training and thesis scholarships in cooperative arrangements between universities and/or public institutions supporting career training and private business actors, in close collaboration with the educational sector-skills alliance activities;

- Building up a knowledge culture and a strategic think-thank around the benefits of the Copernicus programme and its potential for both public services needs and societal challenges; Taking advantage of the synergic actions identified and communicated by the Copernicus Support Office and by the members themselves in order to established best practices such as clustering EU funding for tailored interdisciplinary education programmes between different faculties (engineering, geography and economics) and/or more than one university with the inherent cooperation and participation of industry, associations, incubators, financial institutions and public actors; inter-university exchanges of human resources;

- Developing a synergic relation with the Copernicus Relays Network and other key networks through the coordination of the Commission, in particular with the ESA Education Office, the ESA Space Solutions, the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) and other relevant actors; thereby contributing to the development of the ecosystem that the Commission is building around Copernicus and space data overall with a focus on the match with the market needs and the economic dimension (spin-offs development, etc.).

The Copernicus Academy hub will stimulate the uptake and evolution of information services derived from space and in-situ data. At the forefront of invention is solid research funnelled by relevant academic programs. This is the crossroad where long-term skills development efforts and orientation during primary and secondary education meet. Ascertaining the best possible synergy, the activities will be embedded in larger educational and strategic programmes and aligned with the Erasmus+ skills development project EO4GEO (, “empowering space data users”) for the space-geo-information sector. Also, synergies are drawn with the new Erasmus+ Joint European Degree Copernicus Master in Digital Earth (

Copernicus has a global dimension and supports the international cooperation strategy of the European Union. Meanwhile, a growing number of Academy partners represent Latin-American and Africa (see figure 1). Arrangements for cooperation are concluded with countries outside of Europe to enlarge the use and improvement of Copernicus data and information. The cooperation programme GMES & Africa between the African Union (AU) and the European Union has the objective to establish satellite-based information services for the African continent provided by African institutions – strongly supported by Copernicus. CopHub.AC will also prepare the ground for international cooperation in support of the European space sector in the global context, extending the capacity beyond European borders and, by doing so, also advancing the Global Earth Observation Systems of Systems (GEOSS).

Figure 1: Current state of Copernicus Academy members (focus on Europe, light blue symbols represents specific EO expertise, light green indicates specific GI expertise, red shows an educational focus, white represents sites with no specific area of expertise indicated so far)

Measures to sustain the Academy within the Copernicus ecosystem

The Copernicus Academy ecosystem has been growing steadily over the last few years. To make its impact for the evolution of the Copernicus services and their uptake felt, the distributed research capacities needs to be well orchestrated and documented. CopHub.AC intends to demonstrate new technical and procedural measures to increase this impact (see figure 2). The actors in the Copernicus ecosystem can best perform if they recognize the shared value at the intersection of individual or institutional and network-wide performance. The members’ wealth of capacities and knowledge need to be exploited (a) to facilitate the search for capacity and expertise by location/thematic area/key types of activities, (b) to recognize/explore synergies, and © to open the Academy for the general public – civil society, authorities, industry and research organisations which are not members of the Academy. The CopHub.AC’s Gateway – the searchable inventory of the Academy – facilitates sharing knowledge, education experiences, and best practices between the members. The CopHub.AC’s Research Briefs (2.0) provide the highlights of Copernicus-related research outputs including research context (research centre, location), application field, methodology used, key results and the innovative impact to enable the fast-track to innovation. Links will be established to the emerging EO/GI Body of Knowledge (as an development within EO4GEO) with respect to concepts and methods being used and the evolving EARSC thematic taxonomy in terms of the applications and (potential) users / usages. The thematic working groups within the hub have a moderating function, to monitor thematic fields and to advise. We also intend working groups on transversal topics (tertiary education material, primary and secondary education material) and new emerging themes (e.g. health, energy).

To illustrate the distributed capacities within the Academy, CopHub.AC develops a Knowledge Landscape for navigation and effective access to the wealth of inventive research undertaken by the members. Built on the contribution through the gateway and research briefs, not only the collaboration within the ecosystem is animated and strengthened, but – adhering to the very function of an ‘academy’ – the interactive landscape also opens the door for non-scientists to be informed about the benefits of space-derived information. The CopHub4Citizen App makes the knowledge landscape and the research capacitites accessible for the interested public. We intend to ‘translate’ the research briefs into youth- or publicly understandable terms.

Figure 2: Measures taken by CopHub.AC to strengthen and sustain the Copernicus Academy

Finally, the two networks within the Copernicus ecosystem, the Academy and the Relays network, need to be well integrated and their activities synchronized. Therefore, two hub projects, CopHub.AC and its partner project CoRDiNet, have established close communication channels and coordinate their activities via a joint action plan. The measures described above will strengthen start-up/spin-off developments by supporting initiatives such as incubators and accelerators programmes by ESA and the Commission. Together with the Relays network, SMEs and young entrepreneurs will be animated, facilitated and supported to take part in competitions, such as the Copernicus Masters.
20+ years after the Baveno Manifesto (1998), Copernicus – Europe’s eyes on Earth – provides operational information services developed and constantly evolved by the effort of European researchers. This huge investment in terms of resources and brains deserves to be made known – not only to the research community but equally though to society at large. The need for education and skills development of the young generation for uptake of space data and their use to the benefit of the society, to make the space sector the strategically important tool, as foreseen by the Juncker Plan, including a deeper and fairer internal market with a strengthened industrial base for jobs, growth and investment in space and all industries building on satellite services.

For centuries, people have been trying to “read” the sky and make attempts to describe what the universe looks like. The information from the stars was used to measure time or navigation. However, the observation of the blue sphere before the technological revolution was very limited. For example, Nicolaus Copernicus, who in one of the sketches of the famous painting by Jan Matejko had a telescope at his feet, did not have this instrument at all, because it did not exist at the time.

Visible on the palm of your hand

We had to wait for real pictures of Earth until the 20th century. It is believed that the most widespread photo in history was the first photograph of the Earth made by Apollo 17 from the Moon, December 12, 1972. This photo, or rather the possibility of taking photographs from a distance allowing for being in the frame of the entire planet was a milestone in the development of Earth monitoring. Earlier photographs, made for example with ballistic missiles, depicted the planet in only fragments. Currently, thanks to satellites placed in the Earth’s orbit, monitoring of our planet creates previously unattainable possibilities, which are more rapidly exploiting, creating innovative services and products based on data from space. The Americans have the greatest traditions in using satellite data.

The disappearing Colorado River

One of the longest rivers of the United States, Colorado, has been so heavily exploited by Americans in recent years, that only its remnants flow into Mexico, and nothing else is reaching the place where it has recently been released. However, the water level in the Lake Mead artificial reservoir, which Colorado falls into, has decreased dramatically. Climate warming also did not help the situation.

US scientists have been successfully using data from satellites to map water resources across the country for several years. As the analyst MacKenzie Friedrichs, who is involved in this project, says – Satellite images processed in the cloud enabled the creation of a national database specifying the degree of hydration throughout the country. Historical and current satellite images as well as meteorological data are used for analyzes, which additionally allows to estimate water consumption in the studied area. Thanks to our research, also taking into account also environmental factors such as water uptake through vegetation and evaporation process, we can obtain information about water consumption in a given time. Estimations obtained after analyzing the available data are used for domestic and regional entities that decide on water management. Thanks to the analysis of satellite images, the management of water resources has become more rational.

This is happening in America, but also in Europe, thanks to the Copernicus Earth observation program, data from satellites are being used more and more widely. The European Space Agency, with the ambition of breaching the Americans to develop services based on space data, has sent a series of Sentinel satellites into orbit over the past five years. They deliver millions of gigabytes of data every day. These include optical images, near infrared, near ultraviolet, and radar observations that go to the repository. Importantly, the Sentinel images are more accurate than those from NASA satellites and cover the entire planet.

Fishing under full control

And how can you earn money on satellite data? For example, you can sell in a friendly, transparent form reports on places where fish catches will be the most fruitful. This patent has been used by Ocean Imaging for several decades, offering, among others, Sea View Fishing tool. The application uses current satellite data and is popular among owners of commercial fishing vessels.

- We sailed against the wind and against the current for quite a long time, until we looked at the current Sea View Fishing map. We changed the course, we got to the north-west of the current and I think that thanks to this, we have shortened the travel time by up to 50% – praising the Jan-Lin application, one of its users. The program informs about, for example, sea height, currents, ground temperature, plankton or salinity. All this information, plus key data on potential catches, accelerate the analysis and identification of the most efficient fishing sites. In addition, they optimize fuel consumption. So in this model, not only the application producer but also its users earn.

Thanks to the development of the Copernicus program, similar tools also appear in Europe. And because the European Union is the world’s fifth largest producer in the field of fisheries, and in some coastal regions, up to half of jobs are associated with fishing, there is a lot to wrest. “Sea” applications can be designed not only for business, but also for those who like recreation on the water. Sailing enthusiasts in the vicinity of the Malta Channel can, for example, use the Kaptan application, which shows current information about the situation at sea and weather forecast, including dynamic changes in the atmosphere and the variability of sea currents. Local fishermen, divers, surfers and tourists can also use the free application.

‘The market for satellite-based services will continue to grow. In addition to economic reasons, encouraging the use of new tools to optimize costs or increase efficiency, issues of sustainable resource use and climate protection are becoming increasingly important. In addition, the quality of satellite images is getting higher, which increases their research value and extends the possibilities of their use’ – says Przemysław Mujta, Technical Sales Manager from CloudFerro, a Polish operator of the CREODIAS platform, which provides access to satellite images from the European Space Agency.

Satellite monitoring of the seas and oceans are also used by organizations dealing with the problem of illegal fishing and smuggling, such as Global Fishing Watch, whose financing partner is the foundation of a well-known actor, the Leonardo DiCarpio Foundation. This organization provides an up-to-date, public map that allows tracking of fishing activities around the world. The platform helps in scientific research, improves the way fisheries are managed and promotes environmental protection.

Current report after a fire

The information provided by Copernicus is successfully used, among others companies and institutions in Italy. Summer 2017 was another year that brought a wave of fires in southern Europe. Local national parks and protected areas were particularly affected. After the fires, local authorities faced a huge challenge – they had to examine and report in a fairly short time in what condition the areas covered by fire were in place. In the case of the Italian National Park Alta Murgia, a thorough examination of significant areas just after the fire was not only difficult, but also fraught with considerable risk. Fortunately, a local satellite services company that has developed the Rheticus Wildfires tool came to help. This application, on a current basis, after each shot of the indicated area by the Sentinel-2 satellite, analyzes the available data and generates preliminary reports. Thanks to this, local authorities had access to information on damage on an ongoing basis, they could easily assess and qualify the area, monitor the vegetation vegetation and even detect potentially illegal activities.

- Rheticus Wildfires has helped us obtain practical information about the areas covered by fire and manage the situation, and take appropriate action related to the fire on a regular basis – says Chiara Mattia from the Alta Murgia National Park. – In the application you can view current maps and preliminary reports, and its greatest advantage is not only the timeliness of information, but above all the accuracy of data and the low cost of obtaining them.

How to plan a city?

A few years ago, the Czech Prague authorities had very good, detailed information about the city, but they had problems with access to information about the wider metropolitan area. That is why they decided to use the Urban Atlas system, which collects data on land cover and use for nearly 700 of the largest European agglomerations. In the study of Prague, historical aerial photographs of the city from 1989 and 1999 were used, which were compared with satellite photos. Analysis of the city’s development over time has shown trends in the development of the agglomeration and helped to create a strategy for the development of the city.

The study showed, among other things, that the most dynamic expansion concerned, contrary to appearances, not the center, but the outer ring of Prague and its suburban municipalities. The analysis additionally helped to understand the rulers a number of issues related to the functioning of the city, such as traffic, the demand for public services, housing development or real estate price fluctuations. And also to solve basic problems, such as the biggest urban problems associated with public transport. Urban Atlas, based on satellite data, has become the basis of an urban development plan for the city and the region. Now there are even more applications for this system – for several months, Urban Atlas also collects data on the height of buildings in agglomerations for selected cities.

The bright future of photos from satellites

According to a report by the American company P & S Research Market, in 2023 the global market for commercial services based on satellite imaging is expected to reach a value of over 5.2 billion dollars. These services can be used mainly in natural resources management, border monitoring, mapping of construction projects and environmental monitoring. Data from satellites will also be used by enterprises, governments, defense, civil engineering, forestry and agriculture, insurance companies and the energy industry.

Two large space programs – Copernicus and Galileo – are currently underway in Europe. Thanks to both projects, European companies have access to data on which entrepreneurs can build their business. According to EU data, already about 10 percent. Companies that are newly established in the EU use the information made available under these programs free of charge – stresses Przemysław Mujta from CloudFerro, who in the first year of cooperation with the European Space Agency gathered on the CREODIAS platform over 10 PB of data from satellites. If this European interest we try on Poland, in which over 300,000 people are created annually companies, you can see how big it can be for Polish companies and startups.

Two large space programs – Copernicus and Galileo – are currently underway in Europe. Thanks to both projects, European companies have access to data on which entrepreneurs can build their business. According to EU data, already about 10% of newly emerging companies in the EU use the information available under these programs free of charge. In the first year of cooperation with the European Space Agency, CloudFerro collected more than 10 PB of satellite data on the CREODIAS platform.

Please find Elżbieta Bieńkowska opening speech at 11th EU⁩ Annual Space Policy Conference

Honorable Members of the European Parliament
Dear Ministers and representative of Member States
Dear Didier Reynders,
Dear friends from the space sector,
Ladies and gentlemen,

This 11th Annual Space Conference is now my fifth since I took office.

I always valued this event. It allows us to take a step back, take a snapshot of where we are, what has been achieved, and discuss where we want to be.

This year is special.

Special first because we are not talking anymore about “plans”, “strategies” for the future. We have now a concrete proposal from the Commission: a €16bn EU space programme. I personally pushed it. It is now under negotiations. When I think of our last year discussions, especially on the budget, this is a remarkable achievement.

Special for me then, because it is the last one under this mandate, and when I look back at what we have done since the first space conference I participated in – in 2015 – I am impressed by the work done and genuinely proud of our collective efforts.

Special finally for all of us, because 2019 will be a highly political year, in several of our Member States but also at European level with the European elections of May. The results of these elections will be crucial for Europe as a common project. The current geopolitical realities help us to remember that we should never take for granted the collective achievements. We should continuously fight for them.

Before looking ahead, I would like to say a few words on our programmes Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus. They are now operational and world class references.

We should not be afraid to say it: We have the best Earth observation system in the world and the best satellite positioning system in the world. We should be proud of that.

Not a single EU Member State could have done it alone. This is the result of our European cooperation and these are clear European successes.

Copernicus is today delivering data and services of unprecedented quality. It sets global standards by offering the most accurate climate and environmental data, 24/7.

Our objective is to maintain the EU’s autonomous capacity to observe Earth and to position Copernicus in support of Europe’s security and Europe’s leadership to fight climate change.

Galileo is today delivering beyond expectation.

The accuracy of Galileo is far better than expected.

It is used by more than 500 million users worldwide and this number is growing every day.

Since November, Galileo is the first and only non-US satellite navigation system authorised for use in the US.

And we will continue its development towards FOC service in 2020.

What we proposed

So looking at where we are: Europe is a true space power. The second in the world. The European space industry is a world class one.

That being said, this should not be an excuse for complacency and being immobile. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels and passed achievements.

The world is changing in front of us. The Space sector is undergoing massive changes worldwide. A new reality emerges and the European Space sector and policies must adapt and react to it.

Failing to understand that we are not anymore in a “Business as usual” environment, this is the position of Europe on space that is at stake.

This was the sense of the Space Strategy we adopted in October 2016.

This is the sense of the new €16bn EU Space Programme I presented in June last year.

This is the sense of the increased budget, despite the difficult context.

I personally fought hard for this amount. It shows the commitment of the Commission in putting space as a top priority.

With this new programme, I have four objectives:

The first objective is to ensure continuity in the investment towards Galileo, EGNOS & Copernicus. As any infrastructure, they need to be maintained and upgraded. We need to prepare already now for the next generation of Galileo and Copernicus.

The second objective is to ensure the evolution of these programmes towards new needs such as climate change, security or internet of things. I am clear:

- I want Copernicus to ensure Europe’s political leadership in fighting climate change
- I want Galileo to become the enabler of internet of things, connected cars and app economy
- I want both to participate to Europe’s security even more

The third objective is to promote the adaptation of the EU space sector to the new realities: Security, strategic and economic.

On Security: Space is and should be promoted as an enabler of security. We will progressively launch two new initiatives:

A Space Situational Awareness (SSA) system to avoid collision and debris on key satellites
A Governmental Satellite Communication (GovSatCom) initiative to provide Member States with reliable and secure satellite communication.
Additionally, together with Mariya Gabriel, we are working on a joint initiative on Quantum secured communication using both terrestrial and space capacities. Mariya will tell you more.

On the strategic dimension: there is no Space policy for Europe without autonomous access to space.

This is why it is the first time that we include a legal provision in an EU text to support a European access to space. We are ready to aggregate our institutional demand, to support ground infrastructures and the deployment of new technologies. This is a far-reaching provision which is the answer of the Commission on the call to support European launchers.

Third, on the economic dimension: Europe needs to launch a true European approach to new space – but I will come back to this.

Finally the last objective of the programme is to make our way of working more efficient: we proposed a slight adjustment in the governance – not a revolution – to take account of Brexit, the transition towards an exploitation phase of the programmes, and the rise of security concerns.

Beyond the EU Space Programme, other MFF proposals will support space.

Horizon Europe will support Space research through the launch a space partnership focused on large-scale space systems to boost innovation capacity and competitiveness in the global context.

InvestEU is now also referencing space and will stimulate investment in the space sector.

All these elements are now under negotiations and we have ambitions, I think achievable ambitions, to reach the agreement and the conclusion in the trilogue by the end of February. Of course with the help of our friends from the Parliament, who are here with us.

Towards a European New Space approach

I would like to say now a few words on the changing European space eco-system.

The space sector is going through a fast and profound industrialisation process. I think of the same magnitude as the one the automotive industry went through.

To face these challenges, I am convinced that we need to promote a European approach to “New Space”.

This is not about copy-pasting what is happening elsewhere in the world.

It is about looking critically at our system of support for space innovation.

This is not about opposing large companies with start-ups or traditional space companies with newcomers. Because we need them all here in Europe. We need you all. Both big and small. Traditional space companies and others.

We also need to change the mindset of the Space sector in Europe, but also of the rest of the economy towards the space sector.

It is not by chance that in the US, the private sector driving the deep change in space technologies and businesses are not necessarily coming from the space sector itself.

We are not seeing this yet or not seeing it enough in Europe. So we need different industrial sectors to mobilise efforts, R&D and financing into innovative space solutions.

But we also need a change of mindset of the public authorities.

- We need to make our own public procurement more open and ready to take higher risks.
- We need to develop a first contract approach for our space start-ups. Extremely important.
- We need also to learn in Europe to do things much faster and at much lower cost, more efficiently.
- On the specific point of access to finance: Today we will present a study that we launched together with EIB to assess the conditions of access to finance of European space companies.

The conclusions are very clear: the space sector is still perceived by investors as too risky.

Based on this study, I am calling for the design of a smart financing approach.

The work has already started:

Firstly, in the upcoming months I will launch a Space Fund, as a pilot initiative with the European Investment Fund.

It will mobilise up to € 300 million of public and private investment dedicated to space start-ups and SMEs in Europe.

The Commission’s InvestEU proposal will create a solid base to continue then.

I believe, that in the medium term, Europe will need a large European Space Equity Fund.

Secondly, we launched a new “partnership” with ESA to join forces for supporting orbit validation and demonstration (IOD/IOV) of research experiments from technologies to missions. Some €100 million will be allocated. I think it will be potentially a game changer in the market segment of rideshare services;

Thirdly, as announced last year, in 2021 we will award €10 million to the most commercially viable solution offering low-cost launch services for light satellites.

So we already put things in motion towards a European approach to New Space.

A more personal reflexion – going beyond

This being said, allow me to share with you a more personal reflection.

I am not only speaking now as Commissioner in charge of delivering different European space programmes, but as a person who is a decision maker, and who observed what we do in space at European level and who actively participated in this political push.

At the beginning, 4,5 years ago I understood very fast the importance and the potential of the space sector for Europe. You are all here in this room active in space. You are all in a sense ‘space specialists’. But the potential of space for our economy, for our future is largely unknown in Europe outside of this room, by our citizens, even by our leaders, by our politicians at national level.

Debating space is limited to specialists.

I believe that this is due to one element: in Europe, we do not have a clear collective sense of where we are going together on space matters.

We need to look at the reality straight:
- China goes to the Moon
- The US are going to Mars.

These are objectives, they are broad objectives which are brought by people’s emotions. They were designed to reach the goal.

Even if they fail on the short term, just setting the goal is helpful to mobilise public, private, finance, technology, entrepreneurs, ideas to develop new services, new technologies with concrete applications.

Over the last 10 years, the cost to access and use space has been dramatically cut – some say by 80%. The questions are not whether but rather when something will happen. Are we in this race as Europe?

Have we measured in Europe the impact of these trends on the business and our position on the global stage? Have we fully really realised the disruptive wave which is there?

This is not about economics; this is a deep strategic question for Europe, a question of strategic autonomy and technological dependence.

This is in fact a question of vision and political leadership.

So I am asking one question to all of us: where are we going? What is our shared and collective objective and vision in space? What makes us different?

I hear some spoke about an orbital society: why not?
I hear others targeting the Moon and the moon village: why not?
I hear also that Europe should have the capacity to have human space flights and not depend on others: certainly yes!

All this is going well beyond my mandate as a Commissioner and even the competence of the EU itself in space.

I do not wish my words to be interpreted like saying that the EU should do it.

But I think somebody needs and dares to say it out load.

We need to set in motion a process to define Europe’s vision for Space.

In the US they have a National Space Council attached directly to the President. Why couldn’t we have a “European Space Council” attached directly to the European Council or its President? It would gather all the space decision makers and actors, and advise directly our heads of states and government.

Second, we know that space is to become THE infrastructure for telecommunication, data, the Internet of Things, broadband. And this will likely be run mostly by the private sector. Can we afford in Europe to take the risk that soon, key infrastructures for IoT connection or operating system of connected cars will be non-European? We need what we call internally a European ‘Space Google’!

Third, the link between defence and space will increase. The US has recently created a Space Force. Some of our Member States are considering similar arrangement. We should reflect on the possibility to have a European Space force.

From an industrial perspective, the military will soon run the disruption of technologies. For instance on earth point-to-point space flights. Such a prospect can be very disruptive on the medium term for instance to the aviation sector.

Another dimension is the strategic and technological autonomy of Europe. We need to reduce our technological dependence from third countries.

Concretely we should collectively set up a periodic screening of critical components and for the most strategic segments apply, through our procurement rules, a clear European preference approach..

Finally, we need Europe to become an attractive hub for space innovation. We should be able in Europe to accelerate the emergence of innovative European solutions by offering demonstration/feasibility contracts. A pipeline of projects could be created and supported by the most appropriate means (grants, procurement and equity).

Additionally, a serious bottleneck in space innovation is to be able to go to space and test in orbit the solutions. We could therefore explore the feasibility of an in orbit demonstration programme based on the pilot partnership with ESA: every year Europe could buy a launcher and award its capacity to highly innovative projects. This would accelerate a lot innovation in Europe.

At the same time, we need to develop a true Single Market for Space in Europe, where geo-graphical restrictions in space procurements would only be acceptable in the early R&D phase and for security sensitive activities. In clear, all procurements of operational and civil capacity should be open to all European companies. This is what the single market is about.

I am sure that this kind of reflection is something what we need now in Europe.


Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion of this already long speech, I would like to just to say few words.

These past five years have been very intense.

I am particularly grateful to have met all of you, to have been able to know most of you in the different space related events.

Space is really a community or sometimes as it is called a family. Policy-makers may change but the European space community remains and it will be on all of us gathered here today to transform our aims and visions into successes!

Space is one of those topics where the European added value is clear. And we should be able to present it to the society.

Thank you.


How far have we come in achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals that we are committed to nationally and internationally? Yes, it can be difficult to make a global assessment of poverty and poor economic conditions, but with an eye in the sky, researchers are able to give us a very good hint of the living conditions of populations in the world’s poor countries.

On satellite images, researchers can identify the smallest details in specific areas, including the size of the cottages, a decisive indicator of the living standard in the area. The images also reveal how the surrounding areas are exploited – for example for animal grazing, growing of crops or gathering firewood.

If we are to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals – which 93 member countries have committed themselves to – it is particularly important to track the living conditions in poor nations around the world where the future population growth is highest.

Researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark, recently found that high resolution satellite data can be used to map economic living conditions down to a household level, findings that are published in the prestigious American journal PNAS.

“Based on high resolution satellite images, we can very precisely assess the status of poverty at household level in rural areas in developing countries,” says professor Jens-Christian Svenning from the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, who heads the the research group in Aarhus.

And this is good news if we are to comply with the ambitious development agenda that the world’s heads of state and government adopted at a UN Summit in New York in 2015. The goals came into force on 1 January 2016 and will until 2030 continue in setting a course for a more sustainable development to the benefit of both people and the planet that we live on.

Cheap monitoring of the conditions in poor countries

In an agricultural area in Kenya, the researchers have, based on satellite images, measured, among other things, the size of buildings and areas of uncultivated soil and the length of the growing season on a number of family run farms. The images also reveal how people use the landscape around their homes and how this changes over time.

In their study, the researchers show that a thorough analysis of satellite images can explain 62% of the variation in the economic conditions of the individual households.

As satellite images are relatively cheap and increasingly freely available, the study demonstrates that space-based monitoring is a cost-effective method to track the socio-economic development as a supplement to the classic and very expensive household surveys with interviews, etc.

In particular, the use of satellite data makes it possible to analyse the economic development at much greater geographical scale and with a high temporal frequency.

“The use of satellite images makes it much, much cheaper to keep track of how far we are in reaching the UN’s goals for sustainable development. If conventional assessments of the households’ economic conditions were used, the cost would be more than 250 billion dollars,” says Gary R. Watmough, who headed the recently published investigation and is now employed at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Space technology, and not least satellite-based data collection, appears to be a promising and necessary technology for effective monitoring of living standards in large, even global, areas. And the hope is that the developed methodology is able to ensure a better and targeted effort against poverty throughout the world.

“The method that we have developed is designed to analyse the satellite images in a way that takes into account that people have access to and use different resources in the landscape at different levels. Some use the area just around their house, while others use the common areas of a village. When we use space data with a socio-ecological insight, we capture the financial status and in this way also the development in an area much better than we have previously been able to,” says Jens-Christian Svenning.


A part of the Horizon2020 programme funds space-related projects through the so-called “Space Call”. To a large extent, this part of the programme concentrates on Copernicus-enabled applications and services.

Nevertheless, there are other elements of the Horizon2020 instrument that might be relevant for Copernicus-related initiatives.

To encourage scientific endeavours, the European Commission Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) has put together a list of Horizon2020 calls that can be of interest to anyone working on Copernicus or Earth Observation in general.

Most of these calls have already been published and opened for proposals. They represent a significant opportunity for the Copernicus community. The deadline for the Space calls ends in March 2019.


An editorial by Philippe Brunet, Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence at the European Commission.

A short while ago, actors the Copernicus ecosystem gathered in Brussels for its traditional annual eponymous event: the Copernicus Ecosystem Workshop.

For one and a half day, 250 representatives from the European Commission, delegates from Participating Countries, from industry, from academic and research institutions, and Copernicus entrepreneurs were able to exchange and network in an informal setting. The idea was not to celebrate the programme’s many successes, but to look into the future, into the role of the ecosystem in general and of the industry in particular in Copernicus’ future development, and into the further growth of its user base.

For me and my team, it was obviously a pleasure to see so many familiar faces, and to meet newcomers who have become part of the ecosystem since last year. But it was first and foremost an occasion to listen. To listen to what the representatives of the various “species” that make up the ecosystem have to say about the future and about the many Copernicus market development initiatives that have borne fruit in 2018 (e.g. the DIAS Data and Information Access Services platforms) or have been recently launched by the European Commission (e.g. Copernicus Skills Programme or new elements of our start-programme such as the Copernicus Hackathons).

With seven satellites in orbit, the core of our constellation of Sentinel is now complete. With the launch of the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s Climate Data Store, we can now proudly proclaim that we have developed six operational services at the service of users in Europe and beyond. Our data distribution system is improving at a rapid pace, while our user base is growing at record speed and shows no sign of having reached a plateau.

This success is not only a success of the European Commission. The members of the Copernicus ecosystem deserve our praises and thanks, as they have vastly contributed to this magnificent showcase of what the European Union can achieve when common, public and global good is the objective of a collaborative effort. No single EU Member State, no country in the world could have developed an Earth Observation system of systems as ambitious and successful as Copernicus. We, of course, needed the combined financial resources, but more than anything else, we needed the vision as much as the complementary scientific and industrial capabilities of the Participating Countries.

Indeed, Copernicus is highly sought-after internationally and the international presence of the programme is growing through a set of Cooperation Arrangements which in many cases allow us to access additional Contributing Missions, provide a new source of in situ and validation data, but also provide new business development opportunities to European service providers.

But we should in no way believe that the job is done. Technology is evolving, the industry is changing with the rise of the New Space actors, user requirements are evolving, and new ones emerge, while new users are looking into our data and information.

We therefore need to continue to grow the programme. This is why the European Commission is seeking a budget of € 16 billion for the next 2020-2017 Financial Framework, of which € 5.8 billion are earmarked for Copernicus. We are also looking into expanding our fleet of Sentinel to fill observation gaps in areas such as CO2 monitoring from satellites or thermal remote sensing. But, above all, we must ensure the continuity, the stability and the predictability of the future of the main components of the programme. Indeed, these three elements are a condition sine qua non of the investments by industry and users, of the market development and data uptake.

Copernicus is a public programme and should therefore keep the general societal good at its heart, address negative externalities and address the challenges of the next 15 years, in particular climate change and security. It should invest in areas in which the private sector is not willing or able to venture. Its first objective is to play an ever-increasing role in support of policy-making and implementation at European, national, local but also at international level, for instance to monitor compliance of international agreements aiming to fight climate change.

A second objective should remain to support innovation, and by consequence the creation of jobs and economic growth. In this regard, the full, free and open access to Copernicus data and information should continue to be the cornerstone of the programme. The best way to maximise the societal and economic potential of Copernicus is to put the data in the hands of as many users, organisations or individuals as possible, so that innovative ideas and solutions can emerge. Our data policy is an enabler, a trigger of economic development, and a direct contribution to European and global welfare and sustainable development.

We will continue to support both the supply and the demand sides of the Copernicus ecosystem. But we, at the European Commission, cannot do it alone!

We, of course, need the support of the European Parliament and of the Member States. But we also need industry to play its role. To write the scenario of Copernicus Season 2, industry must definitely be part of the casting.

I was happy to hear at the Ecosystem Workshop that industry is ready to take the lead, with adequate support from the EC, and that buying services rather than infrastructure is the way forward. We, at the EC, are prepared to provide the required anchor tenancy support, with adequate public funding, to continue facilitating access to the data, support research and innovation as well as access to finance, while stimulating demand through Copernicus services procurement contracts.

Copernicus does not belong to the European Commission. It is funded by taxpayers’ money and therefore belongs to the citizens of the EU, and, ultimately, to the citizens and ecosystems of our fragile planet. They should take the future of the programme into their hands!

The past year has been important in the life of Copernicus. Many crucial milestones have been reached, on time and on budget, but there is much more to come. I look forward to measuring the progress made and to meeting many new happy users at the 2019 Copernicus Ecosystem Workshop.