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WARSAW, Poland — The European Commission has unveiled plans to spend 16 billion euros, or $18.6 billion, on a space program to boost the EU’s space capabilities in the years 2021 to 2027.

Of these, 9.7 billion euros are to be allocated to the Galileo and European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) satellite navigation systems, 5.8 billion euros to the Copernicus Earth-observation program, and a further 500 million eurowto the development of new security components.

“We need to up our game. Space data can help our industries lead on the. Internet of Things and automated driving, and help us more accurately monitor greenhouse gas emissions to make our climate action more effective than ever before,” Maros Sefcovic, the vice president of the European Commission, was quoted in a statement.

The EC claims that a swift agreement on the EU’s overall long-term budget is crucial to ensure that funds for space-related projects deliver results.

“Delays similar to the ones experienced at the beginning of the current 2014-2020 budgetary period would mean that investments in the EU’s space activities – Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus – would be put at risk and new services would be delayed,” the statement said.

EU security concerns drive space programs

Meanwhile, local observers say that the spending hike is partly due to the increasing security concerns amid EU policymakers.

“The European Commission is starting to invest in the means of securing its infrastructure. What is on the table now is financing for the full deployment of Galileo, the continuation of Copernicus, meeting new challenges in the field of security, and R&D activities to develop a new generation of satellites for Galileo and Copernicus,” Jean-Jacques Tortora, the director of the Vienna-based European Space Policy Institute (ESPI), told Space News.

This said, the ongoing Brexit talks with the U.K. could present new challenges ahead of the EU’s space efforts, according to Tortora.

Determined to maintain the U.K.’s access to the program, Brexit negotiators have warned the EC that pushing London and U.K. businesses out of Galileo could force the British authorities to seek reimbursement of their spending.

“Galileo is definitely an EU program, and with Brexit, the U.K. becomes a third-party. Some public services are embedded within Galileo, and third-parties are not eligible to be involved in the security-related dimensions of this program,” Tortora said. “The U.K. can still be the EU’s partner on this program, but with some restrictions on the use of security-related services, and the U.K. industry cannot be involved in its core activities, according to the current regulations of the program.”

Meanwhile, in a technical note on the country’s participation in Galileo, the U.K. government says its exclusion could result in delays and additional costs to the program.

“U.K. entities have played an integral part in designing, developing and managing Galileo to date, particularly the delivery of payloads for satellites, the ground control segment and the development of the PRS software. Excluding industrial participation by U.K. industry in security-related areas risks delays of up to three years and additional costs of up to €1 billion to the programme. It will not be straightforward to effectively fulfil all Galileo security work elsewhere,” the document says.


(11 July 2018 – ESA) Following months of tests and careful evaluation, the first data on air pollutants from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite have been released. These first maps show a range of trace gases that affect air quality such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone.

Launched on 13 October 2017, Sentinel-5P is the first Copernicus satellite dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere. It is part of the fleet of Sentinel missions that ESA develops for the European Union’s environmental monitoring Copernicus programme managed by the European Commission.

Philippe Brunet, Director of Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence at the European Commission, welcomed the release and accuracy of the new data, which has shone a light on air pollution on a global scale.

Copernicus Sentinel-5P carbon monoxide measurements in November 2017 show long-range transboundary air pollution transport from India to China. Launched on 13 October, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite has been used to map atmospheric carbon monoxide around the globe. The mission has a swath width of 2600 km, which allows the whole planet to be mapped every 24 hours. Thanks to its Tropomi instrument – the most advanced multispectral imaging spectrometer to date – Sentinel-5P can zoom down to the surface of Earth and deliver highly detailed and accurate data about the atmosphere. (contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data, processed by SRON)

entinel-5P tropospheric nitrogen dioxide measurements over Europe, Africa, Middle East, and India from April 2018 (averaged) are shown here. Air pollution emitted by big cities and shipping lanes is clearly visible. Launched in October 2017, Sentinel-5P is part of a fleet of satellites central to Copernicus, Europe’s environmental monitoring programme. With a resolution of up to 7 × 3.5 km, Sentinel-5P’s Tropomi instrument can detect air pollution over individual cities. Tropomi also has the capacity to locate where pollutants are being emitted, effectively identifying pollution hotspots. (contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data, processed by KNMI)

“These first data are another milestone for our Copernicus programme. They show how Sentinel-5P is set to make a real difference in monitoring air quality and highlight European Union’s contribution to combatting the global issue of air pollution.”

As poor air quality continues to prematurely claim the lives of millions of people every year, it is more important than ever that we find better and more accurate ways of monitoring the air we breathe.

Thanks to its Tropomi instrument – the most advanced multispectral imaging spectrometer to date – Sentinel-5P can zoom down to the surface of Earth and deliver highly detailed and accurate data about the atmosphere.

With a resolution of up to 7 × 3.5 km, it can even detect air pollution over individual cities.

This higher spatial resolution is key to what makes the data produced by Sentinel-5P so useful. Tropomi also has the capacity to locate where pollutants are being emitted, effectively identifying pollution hotspots.

Initial data have highlighted air pollution as emitted by big cities and ship lanes through measurements of nitrogen dioxide over Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and India.

These new data also show the transport of carbon monoxide from India to China, and the closing of the ozone hole during 2017.

Harry Förster from the Netherlands Space Office explains, “Sentinel-5P further enhances existing and initiates new European applications in this area because the very high resolution of Tropomi is simply unprecedented.

“In combination with the improved sensitivity of the detectors we now have a spectrometer that is about 10 times better than its predecessor.

Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, added, “I am proud that we now have a state-of-the-art measuring instrument that allows us to capture high-quality data on the atmosphere worldwide, and to do this more accurately than ever before.

Claus Zehner, ESA’s Sentinel-5P mission manager, affirmed, “We often hear about climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer when we consider why we need to monitor the atmosphere.

“But air quality is also a huge global problem. It affects the health of humans and affects agriculture and the economy in general.”

Having completed its commissioning phase, Copernicus Sentinel-5P data is now available to all, free of charge.

From policy makers and environmental agencies to scientists, users have access to data that ultimately help to better forecast and mitigate air quality problems.

Copernicus Sentinel-5P will also contribute to services such as volcanic ash monitoring for aviation safety and warnings of high level UV radiation.


DigitalGlobe has formed a partnership with Ecopia Tech to use proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms and cloud computing to create building footprints. By using Ecopia’s U.S. Building Footprints powered by DigitalGlobe, customers will have current information on structures in their areas of interest.

Ecopia, a developer in DigitalGlobe’s Geospatial Big Data platform (GBDX) ecosystem, established a process to create building footprints quickly and at scale by leveraging machine learning in combination with DigitalGlobe’s cloud-based 100 petabyte imagery library. According to Ecopia, the service provides actionable insights for observing, analyzing, and monitoring business processes such as supply chain management, urban planning, and asset monitoring for industries that include energy, insurance, real estate, telecom, and location-based services. Starting with the United States, the two companies will extract 2D building footprints across the Earth, then refresh the datasets to find and track change over time.

DigitalGlobe and Ecopia intend to extract every building footprint in the United States by mid-year 2018, and many major international locations by the beginning of 2019. The service will be available off the shelf or on-demand, with or without the source high-resolution imagery, and will include the option to subscribe to regular updates.


The BigDataCube project is developing flexible and scalable services for massive spatio-temporal Earth Observation (EO) data, offered as datacubes. This paradigm replaces the millions of EO files by a few massive multi-dimensional space/time objects, such as 3D image timeseries and 4D weather forecast cubes. This way, raster data get ready for spatio-temporal analysis in the large.

Concretely, the project deploys the European Datacube, rasdaman, in two infrastructures:
The commercial hosted processing environment of cloudeo. Novel datacube access control and quota will safely handle both free and proprietary data provided by Intermap and PlanetObserver.
The public service of CODE-DE, the German Copernicus hub, thereby complementing the batch-oriented Hadoop service with interactive extraction and processing along the paradigm of “any query, any time, on any size”. DLR will exemplarily establish a weather and ocean analytics tool based on rasdaman.

Further, CODE-DE and cloudeo services will be federated, allowing users to combine datacubes from both services without the need for downloading them first.

Goal of BigDataCube is to enhance access to value-adding services supporting collaboration across disciplinary and geographical boundaries for industry and research. The massively simplified Big Data handling benefits users of existing services as well as new businesses, e.g., in agro-informatics: they don’t need to develop or deploy complex technology and manage all data, but can use data readily, thereby freeing resources for their core business. Hence, on the BigDataCube platform novel, specialized services can be established by third parties in a fast, flexible, and scalable manner.

China has launched its 10th space mission of the year, deploying three civilian-operated Earth observation satellites with cameras to help monitor natural disasters, survey natural resources and assist in infrastructure planning.

The Earth-imaging satellites lifted off on top of a Long March 4C rocket at 0322 GMT on 31 March (11:22 p.m. EDT on 30 March) from the Taiyuan space center in northern China’s Shanxi province, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.


2018 is the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Throughout the year, tangible and intangible, as well as natural and digital cultural heritage of Europe is celebrated. The free and open data and information delivered by the Copernicus programme represents a valuable resource for Cultural Heritage monitoring and preservation at European and global level.

Deformation phenomena affecting Rome’s historical city centre (Source: IREA-CNR, Italy)

Cultural heritage, a shared source of remembrance, understanding, identity, dialogue, and creativity, represents an irreplaceable source of life and inspiration while contributing to social cohesion and economic growth.

The importance of cultural heritage preservation is globally recognised. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has a World Heritage mission aimed at management and preservation of cultural heritage sites – to date, 1,073 sites are registered and monitored by UNESCO.

The November 2014 European Council conclusions on participatory governance of cultural heritage called on the European Commission to declare 2018 the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH), and we are finally here. This milestone represents a fundamental recognition of how European heritage shaped European society as we know it today.

Nowadays, tangible and natural cultural heritage is in danger, because of natural hazards and Climate Change, as well as man-made threats and criminal activities. It is our collective responsibility to act.

The data and information offered by the Copernicus programme can contribute to tangible and natural cultural heritage preservation and management. Earth Observation (EO) data is becoming increasingly instrumental, with numerous projects and applications aimed at providing products tailored to the needs of cultural heritage.

Examples of useful EO-based products include:
- Land-use change maps
- Natural subsidence, ground motion detection
- Risk assessment maps
- Archaeological sites monitoring and identification (e.g. buried sites)
- Monitoring of the destruction or looting of sites
- Urban sprawl monitoring
- Climate Change indicators
- Air pollution monitoring
- Coastline monitoring (erosion)
- Bathymetry

Tools integrating EO data into daily cultural heritage-related activities are already in place – a good example of them is the online training environment “SpaceToPlace – EO to Empower UNESCO Site Managers” from Heidelberg University, winner of the 2016 Copernicus Masters University Challenge. Its objective is to provide UNESCO site managers and planning authorities with the right tools and expertise to incorporate Copernicus Sentinel data into their daily work processes and operational routines. The online training environment features easy-to-use, web-based, remote-sensing software alongside dedicated learning modules. Practical hands-on exercises develop the necessary knowledge and skills while also showcasing sample workflows for monitoring ongoing environmental, economic and social processes.
“ Information from the Copernicus Programme, especially Sentinel data, is a core component of our newly available Space2Place e-learning module. It is the first English module within our e-learning platform geospektiv and is linked to our free online remote sensing application BLIF. As UNESCO Chair on World Heritage and Biosphere Reserve Observation and Education, it is one of our main objectives to communicate the opportunities and benefits of Earth Observation to specific stakeholders and to the civil society in general. Space2Place make it is possible to assess land cover changes, to evaluate the impact of Climate Change and to improve spatial planning. All in all, Copernicus data and information represent a fundamental cornerstone to safeguard our global cultural and natural heritage. ”
Prof. Alexander Siegmund and Prof. Tobias Matusch, Heidelberg University

While Space2Place targets UNESCO users, other initiatives are focusing on EU national and regional stakeholders. The NEREUS Earth Observation Working Group brings a regional perspective on EO imagery and geo-information data for cultural heritage and landscapes. In the year 2000, the European Landscape Convention (Florence Convention) underlined the necessity “to integrate landscape into its regional and town planning policies and in its cultural, environmental, agricultural, social and economic policies”. Regions need to ensure compliance and implementation of numerous EU-directives and legislations regarding natural and built environments, and they are usually also the responsible authorities for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Services/Operation of Environmental Agencies. At the regional level the contribution of EO services and products such as those from Copernicus could be useful for:
- Management of cultural heritage during emergencies, particularly in the case of geo-hazards
- Mapping, monitoring and management of cultural heritage as a daily routine.

NEREUS’ concrete actions include a position paper (currently in preparation) on Space for Cultural Heritage and related use cases from EU Regions.

“ The use of EO applications in the domain of cultural heritage has increased over the last few decades and recent studies have demonstrated the usefulness of both passive or active sensors. These data can be used for various purposes such as the detection of crop and soil marks used as a proxy for the identification of architectural buried remains, studying and mapping land use changes in cultural and archaeological landscapes, monitoring of natural and anthropogenic hazards that might threaten archaeological sites and monuments and so forth. ”
Prof. Branka Cuca, Co-chair of the NEREUS Earth Observation Working Group.

The key challenge of the use of EO data for cultural heritage monitoring is the development of tailored products, more than the necessity of new types of space-based observations, therefore research is necessary in this case. As of today, several H2020 projects are looking in this direction.

The HERACLES (HEritage Resilience Against CLimate Events on-Site) project aims at designing, validating and promoting responsive systems/solutions for the effective resilience of cultural heritage sites against the effects of Climate Change. This will be operationally pursued with the development of a system exploiting an ICT platform able to collect and integrate multisource information. Within this framework, Copernicus could enable continuous monitoring of high-risk cultural heritage sites. Specific products such as change detection analysis (optical imagery) or deformation analysis (SAR imagery) have proven to be extremely beneficial for preventive action in these sites.

The PROTection of European Cultural HEritage from GeO-hazards (PROTHEGO) project aims to make an innovative contribution towards the analysis of geo-hazards across European cultural heritage areas. Cultural heritage sites are impacted and threatened by several internal and external factors, with both rapid and slow onset, including natural hazards, such as landslides, sinkholes, settlement, subsidence, earthquakes or extreme meteorological events. PROTHEGO applies novel space technology based on radar interferometry (InSAR) to monitor monuments and sites in Europe which are potentially at-risk due to geo-hazards. Remotely sensed information on ground stability and motion are combined with geo-hazard datasets available to identify the most endangered sites across Europe.

“ Space-based measurement techniques applied to cultural heritage conservation and mitigation policies are the most advanced, sustainable, low impact techniques for environmental risk reduction for cultural heritage sites. In any case, there is a strong need for dedicated and simple tools for downstream service providers and end-users. ”
Dr Daniele Spizzichino, Institute for Environmental Research and Protection (ISPRA), Italy

Lastly, the HERCULES (Sustainable Futures for Europe’s Heritage in Cultural Landscapes) project focuses on the use of Copernicus data to support sustainable and cost-effective landscape monitoring. The objective is to empower public and private actors to protect and sustainably manage cultural landscapes at a local, national and pan-European level. Copernicus is particularly useful thanks to its high-resolution (Sentinel-2) and Medium-Resolution (Sentinel-3) multi-spectral optical imagery.

Last year. the European Commission’s DG GROW organised the “Copernicus for Cultural Heritage” workshop in Brussels. The objective of the workshop was to gather Intermediate and end users’ needs in the cultural heritage domain, while providing an overview of the current Copernicus offer. The key points discussed at the event can be summarised as follows:

- Going from response to prevention is key: preventive actions should be privileged with respect to reactive ones, e.g.: high frequency of observations (constant monitoring) and high and very-high resolution imagery;

- There is a need for user-ready products (intermediate actors between the data providers and the end-users, e.g. site managers);

- Awareness raising activities must be developed with respect to Copernicus products already available. The cultural heritage community needs to gain knowledge about the Copernicus offering;

- Cultural heritage is an integral part of sustainable development (e.g. urban planning) –interdisciplinary approaches should be developed;

- Multi-source data integration is essential to produce value-adding products. There should be a stronger integration between space-based and in situ observations.

Copernicus was not designed to specifically serve the cultural heritage community, nevertheless Copernicus data can support cultural heritage monitoring, preservation, and management. Efforts should be directed towards maximising the benefits that Copernicus can bring to cultural heritage, and to society and to the wider EU economy.

The complete set of Copernicus services for Security applications became fully operational in May of 2017, marking a historic milestone for the Copernicus programme. Following the signature of Delegation Agreements between the Entrusted Entities and the European Commission, industrial contracts for the provision of services were granted.

Analysis of changes in the population of an IDP Camp (Credits: Copernicus Services in Support to EU External Action)

These developments established the operational status of the complete set of Copernicus Services for Security Applications, which have been up and running since then.

Copernicus, Europe’s ambitious Earth Observation and monitoring (EO) programme, has come a long way since the earliest visions of an independent European capability for Global for Environment and Security were sketched out by a group of Space agency and European Commission representatives in Baveno, Italy in 1998. Last May, the final piece in a long and complex puzzle was set into place with the launch of the operational Copernicus Services in Support to EU External Action. This development concludes the transformation of the Baveno vision into reality and the full transition of the Copernicus programme from research to operations.

Copernicus’ Services for Security applications fulfil the programme’s mandate to support European Union policies relating to civil security, supporting challenges related to crisis prevention, preparedness and response, the reduction of cross-border crime and maritime security and safety. Providing a variety of geospatial intelligence products and services, the services fall into three main areas of activity:

- Border Surveillance: Supporting border authorities in managing the external land and sea borders of the EU.

- Maritime Surveillance: Supports tasks such as monitoring of fisheries, combatting marine pollution, ensuring safety of navigation, and customs and law enforcement.

- Support to the EU’s External Action: On-demand and rapidly-delivered geospatial information in support of EU missions and operations abroad, crisis management, and monitoring of security issues outside the mainland European territory.

Security has always been central to the Copernicus programme. GMES, as it was once known, stands for “Global Monitoring for Environment and Security”, and the content of the ‘“S” in GMES’ has been defined and refined over the years, in close dialogue with the service’s key users and stakeholders. Like all the other Copernicus Services, the services for Security applications started out as research projects funded by the European Commission’s Framework Programmes (FP6 and FP7) as well as the European Space Agency’ GMES Service Element (GSE).

A long series of such projects gradually build up the backbone of the current set of operational services, including LIMES (cross-cutting), G-MOSAIC, BRIDGES, G-SEXTANT and G-NEXT (Support to External Action) MARISS, DOLPHIN, SIMTISYS, NEREIDS (Maritime Surveillance), SAGRES and LOBOS (Border Surveillance).

Copernicus Services for Border Surveillance

In recent years, Europe was challenged by a historic migration, fuelled by ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, and particularly by the Syrian Civil War which has displaced half of the population of the country. Almost 1 million Syrian migrants applied for asylum in Europe between 2012 and 2016, according to the European Asylum Support Office (see [1]). The number of refugees and migrants who entered the EU in 2015 surpassed 1 million (see [2]); an estimated increase of more than double the combined total of the previous six years.

The number of migrants who lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean reached over 3,700 in 2016, and at the time of writing stands at 2,776 in 2017 (see [3]). European states are still grappling with the political, cultural and humanitarian challenges of managing this evolving crisis. The need for up-to-date knowledge and information about the situation on the European borders and beyond has never been more pressing.

Copernicus Services for Border Surveillance aim to enhance the information available to European border management authorities through the use of space-based resources. Frontex – the European Border and Coast Guard Agency – has the mandate to promote, coordinate and develop European border management, in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and the concept of Integrated Border Management. The Agency has set up information exchange framework for the EU’s external borders (EUROSUR), which provides near-to-real time data on the land and sea around the EU’s external borders and the pre-frontier area. Copernicus Border Surveillance Services are provided within the framework of EUROSUR.

The European Commission signed a Delegation Agreement with Frontex on 10 November 2015, formalising Frontex’s role as Entrusted Entity for the Copernicus Border Surveillance Services. The services include coastal monitoring, monitoring of international waters, reference mapping, maritime surveillance of an area, vessel detection, vessel tracking and reporting, anomaly detection and environmental assessment. Also with the support of Copernicus, EMSA provides an important component to Frontex vessel detection, and vessel tracking and reporting services.

Priorities for the service include reducing the death toll of irregular migrants crossing the seas to reach Europe, maintaining awareness of migration routes and volumes and contributing towards the prevention of cross-border crime. While satellites cannot provide the full overview of the situation on the entire Mediterranean Sea, satellite imagery can provide valuable support to the ongoing Search and Rescue operations by helping to locate specific boats in distress or assist in curbing illegal activities. A few recent examples serve to highlight the contribution of the service in this respect:

- Copernicus vessel tracking service supported the largest seizure of illegal cargo in Spanish history.

On 25 June 2017, a vessel suspected of involvement in illegal activities that had been tracked by the Copernicus Security service for several months was spotted by a Frontex aircraft. The information from the asset, together with the intelligence gathered using vessel tracking systems, was delivered to the Spanish authorities. The Spanish Customs intercepted the vessel and seized 6 containers of cigarettes, worth 12 million EUR in total. The operation, supported by the Copernicus service, was the largest of its kind in Spanish history (according to the El Mundo newspaper).

- Copernicus vessel detection service supports detection of migrant boats, saving lives.

Since its establishment, the Copernicus vessel detection service provides information on the positions of migrants’ boats on the sea thanks to the state-of-the-art satellite radar technology. Hundreds of people have been rescued so far thanks to the intelligence provided also by the Copernicus service to the border and coast guard authorities. In October 2015, 370 people were rescued following the detection of 4 boats on the sea. Throughout the summer of 2017 tens of people were rescued following successful vessel detection activities.

Under the Copernicus Border Surveillance Service, SatCen supports Frontex through the provision of Coastal Monitoring and pre-frontier services under a Service Level Agreement setting up the interagency cooperation. These services provide imagery analysis on specific external coastal borders, identified through risk analysis to support the operational assessment of illegal migration and cross-border crime-related activities.

According to the Executive Director of Frontex Fabrice Leggeri: “Copernicus helps us improve the situational awareness at the EU’s external borders, provides support in the fight against of cross-border crime. It has also proven to be a valuable tool in supporting the ongoing search and rescue operations at sea by spotting boats in distress and in combatting illegal activities, such as arms and drug smuggling. We have also been able to save lives by helping to locate several boats with migrants stranded at sea.”

Copernicus Services for Maritime Surveillance

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), is designated as a decentralised agency of the European Union to perform technical tasks relating to maritime safety and security on behalf of the European Commission. EMSA, as part of its existing mandate, provides integrated maritime services to a wide range of national authorities across the EU, whose duties include maritime-related tasks, as well as to a number of European bodies. The aims are to improve the overall awareness of the maritime domain and to support the authorities’ functions in areas such as search and rescue, surveillance activities, law enforcement, fisheries control and compliance with maritime regulations.

Through the signature of the Delegation Agreement on 3 December 2015, the European Commission entrusted the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) with the implementation of the Copernicus Maritime Surveillance service. Under this agreement, EMSA uses satellite data combined with other sources of maritime information to effectively monitor maritime areas both within and outside the EU’s borders.

Copernicus Maritime Surveillance (CMS) provides support to a wide range of operational activities. The service started operations in 2016, and by 2017 had delivered almost 2000 satellite images to its users. Currently, CMS provides support to the following user communities:

Fisheries control: In the fight against Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing, Earth Observation information brings added value in terms of the detection of vessels not complying with electronic reporting obligations. Copernicus Maritime Surveillance adds a critical component to integrated services for fisheries control by enabling the identification of correlated (vessels that are detected by space-based radar, and are also reporting their position using standard vessel reporting systems) and non-correlated (vessels that are not reporting their position) vessels, and delivering this information in near-real-time (NRT) to fisheries control authorities. Traps and cages are also detectable by satellite providing additional value in the fight against IUU.

Maritime Safety: Earth Observation products can be analysed on a routine basis, enhancing the maritime picture for traffic safety purposes and for information to navigation. EO can support search and rescue operations in remote areas where conventional assets are not easily deployed (or take substantial time to reach the area of operations). In a scenario where the northern routes over the Arctic are used, the detection of icebergs can provide significant added value in terms of the safety of navigation. Moreover, the location of missing vessels and/or vessels in distress in remote areas determined using EO information. While radar can be used to detect the vessel, very high resolution optical data can be used to identify it.

Maritime Security: Earth Observation can support maritime surveillance activities, particularly in areas where vessel reporting information is scarce. Systematic monitoring using EO is used to determine patterns of life and better enable operations in the area of interest.

Law enforcement and customs: Earth Observation assets provide a unique source of information regarding non-reporting vessels, which are usually the ones targeted by law enforcement and customs authorities. A combination of high resolution radar for wide area monitoring with very high resolution optical data for target identification brings significant capabilities to Member States, particularly in areas where other assets cannot be used.

Marine pollution monitoring: Since 2007, EMSA has been operating CleanSeaNet, a pan-European EO based oil spill monitoring service. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite images can be used to detect oil spill discharges at sea and the results can be made available in NRT to operational end users to support verification activities, increasing the efficiency of conventional oil spill detection assets (i.e. aircraft). Additionally, by correlating the oil spill detection results with vessel reporting sources the service can identify the possible polluter. In case of very large spills or spills with the continuous release (such as those from Oil commercial and Gas installations), Earth Observation assets can provide support to response and clean-up operations. Outputs of the service include rapid detection and mapping of the oil spill extent and potential source, as well as support information to pollution response assets.

In the past 16 months of operations, there have been several success stories linked to Copernicus Maritime Surveillance:

- May 2017: Spanish customs seized 2.5 tons of cocaine, supported by vessel detection information from CMS
- June 2017: Support to MAOC-N Law enforcement operation with very high resolution optical images resulted in the seizure of 1 ton of heroin
- July 2017: Support to the German Waterways police in the scope of the G20 summit
- November 2017: Support to a search and rescue operation in La Reunion, with the detection of a vessel drifting at sea, after a fire erupted on board.
- January 2018: Successful combination of CMS satellite images and EMSA remotely piloted aircraft platforms (RPAS) in support of Law enforcement activities of Member States.

The Copernicus Maritime Surveillance service could be expanded to support Member State Administrations in a wider range of activities and geographic coverage. This expansion could include:

Global Maritime Emergencies: CMS can support global maritime emergencies at sea. This requires rapid reaction time as well as the ability to detect small targets and to monitor large areas. The activities for consideration are support to remote area operations, support to Rescue at Sea, and the detection of missing targets (vessel, life raft or person).

Arctic Maritime Surveillance: Ship traffic in Polar Regions has been increasing as cruise ships make journeys to both Arctic and Antarctic waters, fisheries activity has increased, and merchant traffic has started making use of the Northeast Passage. Ship traffic, sea ice and pollution can be monitored using radar satellites or (weather and light permitting) optical satellite imagery.

Maritime Surveillance for external security and defence: In the context of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), where 25 participating Member States agreed to further cooperation in defence-related activities. Copernicus Maritime Surveillance could provide dual-use products for the civilian and military communities, serving as valuable tool for cooperation in this domain.

Copernicus Services in Support to EU External Action

In its role as a global actor promoting human rights, democracy and fundamental freedoms, the European Union has a responsibility to assist third countries in situations of current or emerging crises and prevent the destabilising effects of global and trans-regional threats. As such, the EU engages in numerous missions and operations overseas, in the context of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The objectives of these missions include peace-keeping, conflict prevention, capacity building and training, combatting piracy and human trafficking, and supporting the rule of law.

Copernicus Services in Support to EU External Action (SEA) supply maps and intelligence reports to the EU actors engaged “on the ground” in these activities, providing decision makers with geo-information on particularly remote, difficult-to-access areas. Services can be delivered within very short timescales, as is necessary in cases of responses to crises such as political or armed conflicts.

Operations teams on the ground are supplied with information such as the extent of conflict-related damages and the status of road networks and other key infrastructure such as airports and harbours. The service also includes components dedicated to planning safe evacuation routes, analysing temporary settlements, monitoring borders abroad and providing situational awareness of crises. A wide range of activities with a security dimension can be monitored (e.g. large-scale movements of personnel and/or equipment, new construction, infrastructure development or decommissioning).

More examples of SEA service products can be found in the Copernicus Services in Support to EU External Action Service Portfolio.

The benefits of Copernicus SEA information include the improved and targeted allocation of resources and the mitigation of further damage and loss to human life. The services are mainly oriented towards European users, but can also be activated, under specific conditions, by key international organisations under cooperation agreements with the European Union.

The European Commission entrusted the European Union Satellite Centre (EU SatCen) with the Support to EU External Action (SEA) component of the Copernicus Services for Security applications, through the signature of a Delegation Agreement on 6 October 2016. This signature was the last of its kind amongst the Entrusted Entities of the Copernicus programme, and therefore marked the end of a long road towards fully operational services. The industrial framework contract for geospatial production in respect of the Copernicus Services in Support to EU External Action (SEA) was signed in May 2017. Since May 2017, the service has been activated 94 times by Authorised Users from the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission and Member States.

According to Brigadier General Pascal Legai, Director for the EU SatCen “The Copernicus Service in Support to EU External Action provides valuable geospatial intelligence services to European actors involved in CFSP/CSDP missions and operations as well as to the European External Action Service and the Member States, helping to make these activities more effective. The service strengthens the situational awareness of European actors at decision making level and on the ground carrying out, crisis prevention and management as well as humanitarian tasks, enhancing the safety of the users and facilitating a comprehensive approach to the management of regional crises.”

Copernicus is Europe’s most ambitious Earth observation programme and provides full free and open access to data for the development of applications in a wide variety of domains. It is estimated that investments in the programme will increase to EUR 7.5 billion by 2020, while the economic benefit is expected to double in value. Every euro invested in Copernicus activities by public authorities, results in a EUR 1.4 benefit to the whole economy. The Copernicus Masters awards applications and ideas that are using Copernicus data to tackle important challenges faced by business and society, with 2018 submissions opening 1 April

Oberpfaffenhofen, 28 April 2018 – 10 Petabytes of free Earth Observation (EO) data is generated by the Copernicus Programme every year. This data enables the Copernicus services to deliver near-real-time data on a global level, contributing toward the sustainable management of the environment. The data is sourced both from the family of Sentinel satellite missions, contributing missions (existing commercial and public satellites) and from a multitude of in situ sensors. Big data from space holds great potential for the development of ideas and solutions in many (non-space) sectors. As these ideas continue to develop into commercially viable solutions, the economic benefits continue to grow.

The Copernicus Masters 2018 – Europe’s leading innovation competition for Earth observation (EO) – is searching for such outstanding ideas, applications, and business concepts from future-oriented SMEs, startups, universities and individuals in the fields of business, research, and higher education.

From 1 April to 30 June, participants of the Copernicus Masters can submit their innovative EO ideas to 16 challenges offered by the largest number of world-class partners since the competition started. Partners of the 2018 edition are the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), CGI, Planet Inc., BayWa AG, Stevenson Astrosat Ltd., Airbus, Satellite Applications CatapultLtd., and the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). “The Copernicus Masters has developed into an important innovation driver for Earth observation. Solutions submitted to the competition not only benefit citizens but also bring multiple socio-economic advantages into various economic areas,” states Josef Aschbacher, Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes. ESA is an initiating partner of the Copernicus Masters and has set a challenge for participants every year since 2011.

Participants can demonstrate their innovative use of Earth observation data across a wide variety of challenge topics, including the fields of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, energy, health, sustainable living, smart farming, disaster management, maritime, defence & security, forestry, and smart farming, digital transportation, as well as smart cities.

For the second year running, the European Commission (EC) offers six additional European challenges, covering the topics of sustainable development, government, data access, B2B applications, land monitoring and emergency management. Participants also have the unique opportunity to build their solutions with additional satellite data sources offered by the new partners of the competition.

Together with cash prizes, challenge winners will receive access to an international network of leading Earth observation organisations, substantial satellite data quotas, crowd investing platform, and business development support worth more than EUR 600,000 in total. Additionally, the Overall Winner receives a VIP trip to a Satellite launch in Kourou valued at EUR 10,000.

“We’re proud of the active role the Copernicus Masters is playing in the commercialisation of Earth observation services,” adds Thorsten Rudolph, Managing Director of AZO, the competition organiser. “Since 2011, the competition has selected 87 winners in total. They were chosen out of more than 2700 entrants from 73 different countries, who submitted over 1100 cutting-edge business ideas. This is an excellent demonstration of how the innovation competition functions as a European deal flow pipeline for Earth observation.”

In addition, the Copernicus Masters is complemented by the Copernicus Accelerator to empower the transformation of great ideas into commercially viable solutions through a tailored 12-month business coaching service. All winners of the Copernicus Masters 2018 will gain access to the Copernicus Accelerator if eligible.

For more details on this year’s challenges, prizes, and partners, please visit
For more information, please see
Additional information on the Copernicus programme is available at: and

A scheme to use satellites to support the roll out of charging points for Electric Vehicles is one of eight new projects announced by the Science Minister Sam Gyimah today.

The electric vehicle charging point project, led by Energeo Ltd working with Bournemouth Borough Council, will combine satellite imagery, Open Data, and Machine Learning to deliver an interactive map based user interface. This will help the council identify charge point requirements via visualisation of different features and influences on EV roll out, such as existing charge points, residential driveway availability and size, and footpath width and potential obstructions.

The eight new projects are part of the UK Space Agency’s Space for Smarter Government Programme, which demonstrates the potential of using satellite technology to solve challenges faced by the public sector.

Satellite data and applications which use space have the potential to change the way the public sector works, leading to better services and lower costs. This in turn could help boost the growth of the UK space sector, which is already worth £13.7 billion to the economy and provides around 40,000 jobs.

The announcement comes on the day the Space Industry Act received Royal Assent, which will unlock an exciting era of British space innovation, exploration and investment. The Act will enable the first commercial space launch from UK soil in history, creating the potential for hundreds of highly-skilled jobs and bringing in billions of pounds for the economy.

Science Minister Sam Gyimah said:
“These projects demonstrate the potential of satellite technology to benefit life on Earth with innovative solutions to challenges ranging from monitoring plastic waste in the sea to supporting the roll out of charge points for electric cars.

“As set out in our Industrial Strategy, the UK Space Agency is working together with industry to ensure the UK thrives in the commercial space age. The Space for Smarter Government Programme is transforming the way the public sector works. It will stimulate innovation and growth, while helping the public sector save money and improve decision making.”

The Environment Agency will collaborate on two projects, one of which deploys satellites and drones in the battle against marine waste and the other will use satellite data to monitor flood defences in the Thames Estuary.

Dr John Kupiec, Environment Agency’s Innovation Manager, said:

“The Environment Agency is delighted to support the development of these innovative projects that will help us work towards protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development.

“The Government’s 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment highlighted the problem of plastics in the environment – particularly in marine and coastal environments. By using Earth Observation and other novel technologies we hope to accomplish our common goals in reducing plastic and other waste pollution.”

The UK Space Agency is providing training to policymakers as well as access to data, wider expertise and market capability as part of the programme. Working alongside public sector partners, academia and industry can help bring new satellite applications to market to meet UK needs.

The full list of projects, which have received a combined total of more than £700,000 in funding, can be found here.

The millions of tonnes of plastic ending up in the oceans every year are a global challenge. ESA is responding by looking at the detection of marine plastic litter from space, potentially charting its highest concentrations and understanding the gigantic scale of the problem.

We dump around 10 million tonnes of plastic in the oceans annually. Though most conspicuous along coastlines, plastic litter is also found out in the open ocean and from the equator to the pole – even frozen in polar ice.

Gradually broken down into micro-fragments by weathering and waves, it is not only endangering marine animals but it is also entering the global food chain, with unknown long-term consequences for animal life and our own health.

“Indirect measurements from space are already used to get to grips with the marine plastic litter problem,” explains ESA’s Paolo Corradi, overseeing the project.

“For instance, satellite maps of ocean currents let us simulate accumulation of litter in vast ‘gyres’ within the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

“What we are now looking at in this new project is to assess the feasibility of direct optical measurement of seaborne plastic waste from satellites. This might sound like mission impossible, but there are reasons to believe it might be indeed doable, at least for certain concentrations.

“We’re not talking about actually spotting floating litter items but instead to identify a distinct spectral signature of plastic picked up from orbit, in the same way that processing software can today pick out concentrations of phytoplankton, suspended sediments and water-borne pollution.

“In particular, plastic has specific infrared fingerprints that are sometimes used in the recycling industry to sort plastic items from other refuse on a conveyor belt.”

Supported by ESA’s Basic Activities, two teams are working in parallel, led by Argans Limited and Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK. Their work began last September with an initial assessment of requirements and technologies, along with a workshop bringing together marine litter experts with remote sensing specialists.

Satellite images from missions such the Copernicus Sentinels are being checked against aerial coverage plus ground surveys where drifting plastic is collected from the sea to be assessed in close-up. Initial results were presented last week at the International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, USA.

Paolo adds, “We hope to get an idea of what kind of concentration of marine litter is viewable from the top of the atmosphere using current technology, or if we’d have to operate from the middle of the atmosphere using aircraft or drones. Or would we have to improve the technology?”

The project will deliver a preliminary set of requirements for a satellite to detect marine plastic litter in the shortwave infrared.

The ultimate goal might be an actual global map showing litter concentrations, concludes Paolo: “Simulations are all well and good, but an image based on actual measurements would provide important insights to scientists and would hold greater power for the public and policymakers alike.

“Monitoring is not a goal in itself, but a means to show the scale of the problem, and start to try and solve it.”