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The Copernicus programme launched in 1998 under the name GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) is the European flagship Earth observation programme, created with the objective of collecting Earth observation data to support, mainly, policy making.

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The management of the Copernicus programme falls under the competence of the European Commission, while the development of the observation infrastructure is performed by ESA (European Space Agency), – the latter being responsible for the deployment of the “space component” of the programme. The in-situ component is itself managed by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which coordinates Member-States in-situ generated data. According the Copernicus Market Report issued in November 2016, the investment in the Copernicus programme is EUR 7.4 bn and the cumulated monetary benefits after 1 year of operations is estimated to be EUR 13.5 bn for the added-value created in the upstream space industry, the sales of Copernicus-based applications by downstream service suppliers and the exploitation of Copernicus-enabled products by end-users in various economic sectors. Among others, non-monetary benefits include 12,450 job years supported in the downstream markets and 15,580 job years supported in the upstream. The free and open data policy of the Copernicus programme enabled the creation of new business model and strengthen the Earth observation markets in Europe, in particular the downstream sector. Concrete examples of operational benefits thanks to Copernicus include an improved safety at sea thanks to risk forecasts, an improved air quality monitoring or the support to marine renewable energy thanks to tidal predictions.

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Copernicus is Europe’s most ambitious Earth observation (EO) programme and provides full free and open access to data for the development of applications in a wide variety of domains. The Copernicus Masters awards recognise applications and ideas that are using Copernicus data to tackle important challenges faced by business and society. From 1 April to 30 June, Copernicus Masters participants can submit their innovative EO ideas for solving any of the 16 challenges offered by the largest number of world-class partners since the competition started.

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 great potential of big data from space

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.

Socio-economic advantages

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, stated 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.

Additional European challenges

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.

Commercialisation of Earth observation services

One can be very proud of the active role the Copernicus Masters is playing in the commercialisation of Earth observation services, commented 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, he added.

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.

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Tonight at dinner you might not think about poverty, hunger, and poor nutrition, but unfortunately that’s not the case for one in nine people in the world. About 815 million people are going to bed hungry. It makes sense that one of the greatest challenges we are facing today is how to ensure global Food Security and achieve Zero Hunger, one of the UN’s Sustainable Developments Goals (SDG 2).

Investing in smallholders is key to address food security, among them are many of the rural poor, vulnerable to risks. In the project “Improving Agricultural Risk Management in Sub-Saharan Africa: Remote Sensing for Index Insurance” we investigated ways to improve agricultural insurance for smallholder farmers by using remote sensing.

IFAD AND THE IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURAL INSURANCE

Smallholder farmers currently produce 70 per cent of Africa’s food supply and 80 per cent of the food consumed in Africa and Asia. However, smallholders are vulnerable to a range of individual and widespread risks. Climate-related production risks trap households in poverty and food insecurity. Without tools to manage these risks, rural and agricultural development is hindered. Agricultural insurance schemes can play an important role as part of an holistic approach to rural development, by both protecting investments in smallholder farming as well as encouraging them.

Index insurance – a type of agricultural insurance – is based on yield loss data, instead of individual, on-farm insurer visits. This makes agricultural insurance more accessible to smallholders. The standardized nature of the product also means it can be packaged with other services, such as credit or seeds, to form a comprehensive agricultural risk management and rural development strategy.

IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development of the United Nations, has been improving access of poor rural people to finance for over forty years. As part of this, since 2008, IFAD has been specializing in agricultural insurance.

DATA ACCESS! NOT ALWAYS STRAIGHTFORWARD

Index insurance is usually designed and operated using on-the-ground data, namely historical and contemporary weather and yield data. However, one of the main challenges to develop robust index insurance products is availability, accessibility, quantity and quality of these ground data sets.

The project was designed to contribute to scalable and sustainable approaches to index insurance. More specifically, it assessed if and how remote sensing could be used for index insurance to benefit smallholder farmers.

THE POTENTIAL OF REMOTE SENSING FOR INDEX INSURANCE

To overcome the above mentioned limitations of ground-based data, index insurance developers are turning to remote sensing approaches making use of the objective measurements and spatial coverage of EO data. However, despite the significant experience developed in drought insurance, applications for smallholders’ cropping activities are relatively new, and remote sensing data is not yet being used to its full potential for index insurance.

So how can we use the massive amounts of available EO data? During this project we investigated how remote sensing can contribute to index insurance by addressing, amongst others, the following questions:

- What are the remote sensing methodology options and their possible combinations?
- Which remotely sensed data is best suited for which crops?
- How can the solutions be used operationally in index insurance?

“Transforming rural areas into dynamic economies has an enormous potential and can greatly contribute to ending hunger and extreme poverty, and offer an alternative to migration.” – Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

IMPACT IN THE FIELD

Ultimately index insurance is important to help rural households and their related enterprises become more productive and resilient to shocks. Earth observation data or derived information products can contribute to index insurance solutions by either supplementing the ground-based data indices or creating potential alternatives. Accuracy of the developed index is influenced by:
- Methodology
- Crop
- Crop type
- Region
- Availability and quality of the ground data

Detailed information on the results can be found can be found in Remote sensing for index insurance: findings and lessons learned for smallholder agriculture and in an accompanying overview.

SCALING-UP INDEX INSURANCE

The project taught us that in order to further develop remote sensing for index insurance it is recommended that:

- Additional research and development activities be supported to further improve the potential of remote sensing for index insurance.
- Further investment be made in ground data collection protocols, capacity, and systems.
- Different remote sensing approaches, dedicated mapping tools, and ground level sources of data and information be combined to improve the quality of index insurance structures.
- Future initiatives focus on developing proper segmentation of the size of the insured area
- Schemes based on remotely sensed data be carefully planned for measures aimed at mitigating the occurrence of basis risk events (the potential mismatch between the payout and the losses incurred).
- Capacity be built of private and public remote sensing institutions in order to fill gaps in currently available expertise and ensure future sustainability.

IFAD is now working on further scaling-up index insurance and will draw on the knowledge generated in the project thanks to its partners – including VITO – who have helped us better understand the potential uses of remote sensing for agricultural development.

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Open-source code developed by a Penn State graduate could improve weather forecasting and a range of other research endeavors that rely on pairing atmospheric models with satellite imagery.

Yanni Cao, who earned her master’s degree in geography in 2016, developed the code while a member of Penn State’s Geoinformatics and Earth Observation laboratory (GEOlab) as a way to fix errors created when satellite data is combined with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. The work was done in collaboration with her adviser, Guido Cervone, head of GEOLab, associate professor of geoinformatics and associate director of the Institute for CyberScience, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

To streamline calculations, the commonly used WRF model — like most — assumes the Earth is a perfect sphere. Yet satellites capture a more realistic oblate spheroid shape of the Earth, as planets are bulged due to gravity and rotation. Inaccuracies in calculations are caused by shifting locations of models from a perfect sphere to the observational data on Earth that flattens near the poles and bulges around the equator.

“The basic idea is that the Earth is not a perfect sphere,” said Cao. “In order to make easy computations, most, if not all, weather models see the Earth as a perfect sphere. However, most of the remote sensing systems see the Earth as a spheroid. There is a difference between the two. When you use spheroid geographic coordinate systems with a spherical model, a mismatch is created.”

This is widely known to cause calculation errors, Cao said, but those errors are more pronounced when models are set to run with high spatial resolution. For example, location errors of up to 13 miles were introduced into the WRF model when it was run at a .6-mile grid size, causing errors in temperature and other weather variables, particularly near mountains and bodies of water.

To analyze these errors and develop a methodology that fixes these issues, Cao analyzed an area of the U.S. that is about 17,000 square miles. She used the WRF model under three scenarios: low resolution satellite data, high resolution satellite data, and then WRF-corrected data using the code she created. Cao selected an area in the northeast United States because it contained large elevation gradients and diverse land-use patterns such as forests, urban areas and wetlands.

She used the data to quantify how pairing WRF models with differing satellite resolutions has an impact on projecting meteorological variables such as temperature, wind direction, wind speed and atmospheric mixing ratios.

“While some of these errors can be small, they still introduce bias into the model output,” Cao said. “For very high resolutions simulations, these biases are compounded and can lead to significant errors in the model results.”

Her results show that the mismatch resulted in errors in the model results for each variable.

Cao used this methodology to improve the accuracy of models for methane emissions and now works as a data scientist detecting methane leaks for Picarro, a private company based in Silicon Valley.

Cervone added that the code will be beneficial in a range of research areas. “This research fits well with questions being investigated at NCAR, which is why researchers there were so interested in advancing this new tool,” said Cervone. “And it will only prove to be even more useful as high resolution satellite imaging becomes more commonplace.”

The research was published in Geoscientific Model Development and was partially funded by the Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research.

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Europe collects increasingly more data, enhancing our understanding of the environment. Earth observation data obtained through the European Union’s Copernicus programme presents new challenges and opportunities to improve our environmental knowledge. Combining up-to-date Copernicus data with our existing knowledge base, the European Environment Agency (EEA) aims to empower policy makers and citizens across Europe in taking measures to address local, national and global challenges.

Since the first pieces of environmental legislation were adopted in Europe in the 1970s, public authorities have been monitoring and recording different elements to understand environmental issues and trends. In some cases, even citizen groups, such as birdwatchers, have collected data to support nature conservation. EU legislation often sets specific parameters to measure progress towards the targets set in the legislation. Today, European countries monitor and report significant amounts of comparable data, ranging from greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere to municipalities’ recycling rates.

The knowledge and understanding of environmental issues have gradually grown along with the number of data flows on specific issues. As our knowledge grew, so did our awareness and understanding of the strong links between thematic and sectoral observations. Consequently, European policies have evolved from issue-specific legislation to wider, systemic policy packages.

Mainly through its Eionet network, the European Environment Agency currently works with more than 100 different data flows involving up to several hundred institutional partners in 39 countries. These highly comparable and coherent data sets have helped us understand some key issues affecting the state of Europe’s environment.

Understanding the knowns and the unknowns

Despite these significant gains in our knowledge, observations and data streams still remain to some extent fragmented across topics, time and space. Almost all the assessments we have published in recent years, including our latest state of the environment report (SOER 2015), stress the complex and global nature of key environmental problems, as well as the interlinkages between them. It is impossible to understand air pollution without considering what happens on land and in the oceans. Similar limitations exist when we focus on an area.

For example, thousands of monitoring stations across Europe collect air samples at a given frequency, analyse and report concentration levels of key air pollutants. This data flow is a major step towards a better understanding of the quality of the air we breathe. Nevertheless, it remains limited to time-specific readings that are only fully relevant within meters of that monitoring station.

The air quality in the areas between monitoring stations has been relatively unknown until recently. Satellite observations and increasingly more accurate computer modelling of big data are changing this – and not only for air quality monitoring.

Combining satellite and in-situ data: Copernicus

The European Union has been investing in earth observation through its Copernicus programme, which involves not only high-resolution satellite imagery but also in-situ observations collected through sensors on the ground and in the soil, weather balloons, buoys and deep ocean sensors, for example. Copernicus satellites can monitor and transmit a large spectrum of earth observation data, ranging from the chemical composition of the atmosphere to changes in vegetation during the growth season. All Copernicus data and information products are accessible online and free of charge.

Copernicus is organised around six services: atmosphere, marine environment, land, climate change, emergency management, and security. The European Commission is responsible for the overall coordination, while the implementation of individual core services involves all the main key earth-observation actors in Europe. Since 2012, the European Environment Agency has been coordinating the pan-European and local components of the land monitoring service, supporting applications in a variety of domains, such as spatial planning, forest management, water management, nature conservation, and agriculture. The EEA is also coordinating the Copernicus in-situ component across all core services.

The potential of what we can collectively achieve with these data is immense. By combining an increasing number of data sets, we are able to understand better what is happening where, why it is happening, and who will be affected by it and how. Imagine monitoring changes in water quantity in areas across Europe as detailed as 10 by 10 meters, or how the crop production will be affected in the short run and when factoring in the long-term impacts of climate change. Our Air Quality Index with up-to-the-minute data could be developed further to include accurate air quality projections with shifts in wind or other weather patterns factored in.

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On 03 March 2018, on the occasion of the International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF2), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) held an Inter-Agency Meeting to discuss furthering their bilateral cooperation.

In the meeting JAXA and ESA announced a joint statement concerning the results of the studies of the Joint Working Groups established last May and future collaboration between the two agencies.

On 02 March 2018, JAXA President Naoki Okumura and ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Woerner held a meeting in Tokyo at the occasion of the 2nd International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF2). Both Heads of Agency reviewed the activities of two joint working groups which were defined in the Joint Statement signed on 15 May 2017, and confirmed progress and results achieved since May 2017.

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India: To allow the benefits of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation and Monitoring programme and of the Indian fleet of remote sensing satellites to extend beyond the borders of the partners, in Bangalore, on 19 March, the European Commission and India’s Department of Space signed a landmark Cooperation Arrangement related to sharing of Earth observation satellite data.

Philippe Brunet, Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence signing the agreement with Dr PG Diwakar, Scientific Secretary, ISRO

The Copernicus programme provides a wide range of applications, e.g. climate change, land, ocean and atmosphere monitoring as well as support in the forecasting, management and mitigation of natural disasters. Its full, free and open data policy has proven its merits by allowing the development of a thriving user base in Europe and beyond. On the other hand, India has developed an ambitious and wide-ranging Earth Observation programme which is managed by the Department of Space of India and implemented by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Recognising that data sharing will provide mutual benefits, in particular in the pursuit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the European Commission and India’s Department of Space (DOS), have decided to sign a Cooperation Arrangement with the aim to strengthen and stimulate cooperation on Earth observation and mutual access to the data from the European Union’s Sentinel series of satellites and from the Indian Earth observation satellites.

Under this arrangement, the European Commission intends to provide India with free, full and open access to the data from the Copernicus Sentinel family of satellites using high bandwidth connections from data hub to data hub. Reciprocally the Indian DOS will provide the Copernicus programme and its participating states with a free, full and open access to the data from ISRO’s Earth observation satellites including historical data sets. It is intended that ISRO’s satellite data will be made available for distribution on the European ‘Copernicus hub’. This comprises land, ocean and atmospheric series of ISRO’s civilian satellites (Oceansat-2, Megha-Tropiques, Scatsat-1, SARAL, INSAT-3D, INSAT-3DR) with the exception of commercial high-resolution satellites data.

The Cooperation Arrangement includes technical assistance for the establishment of high bandwidth connections with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sites, in particular through setting up of mirror servers, data storage and archival facilities. Considering the importance of in situ observations, which are complementary to space-based observations, the Indian DOS will facilitate access to in situ data from its regional observatory networks of geophysical and meteorological data, to support the enhancement of the Copernicus data architecture and towards the development of global products. ISRO will coordinate access to in situ data and promote the use of information and data provided by the Copernicus programme with various institutions and government agencies, particularly the environmental sector and all other users, including academia and the private sector.

This Cooperation Arrangement is also expected to lead to the development of an active downstream sector in the European Union and in India, as well as to joint product development. They aim at facilitating the involvement of diverse users in the development of products and services. In particular, both sides intend to encourage cooperation on data processing for common use in line with the EU-India Agenda for Action-2020, e.g. long-term management of natural resources, monitoring of marine and coastal areas, water resource management, impacts of climate variability and climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, food security and rural development, infrastructure for territorial development and health management issues.

Both sides support free, full and open access for end users to data and information from the Sentinel fleet and from the ISRO satellites specified in the Arrangement, and each side will fund its own activities and adhere to the principle of ‘no exchange of funds’.

The Cooperation Arrangement has been signed in Bangalore on 19 March by Mr Philippe Brunet, Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence, on behalf of the European Commission and by Dr PG Diwakar, Scientific Secretary, ISRO on behalf of the Department of Space of India.
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UNESCO developed a tool to monitor water quality using Earth Observation.

The International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ) World Water Quality Portal fosters understanding of the impacts of climate- and human-induced change on water security.

2 February 2018: The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has developed a tool to monitor water quality using Earth Observation. The tool – the International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ) World Water Quality Portal – fosters understanding of the impacts of climate- and human-induced change on water security. The Portal provides water quality information, facilitates science-based, informed decision-making for water management, and supports efforts by countries to implement the Sustainable Development Goal on clean water and sanitation (SDG 6). It also supports achievement of other SDGs and targets directly related to water quality and water pollution, such as Goals on health and life on land.

The tool, inter alia, enables users to visualize satellite-derived water quality information for the world’s lakes and rivers. It allows for interactive browsing of water quality products, allowing users to select water quality parameters and specific regions of interest, set desired virtual sampling stations, and gather values and time series information. The Portal was developed in the framework of UNESCO-International Hydrological Programme’s (IHP) IIWQ.

The IIWQ promotes scientific collaboration to address water quality issues through joint research activities, knowledge generation and dissemination, and sharing of solutions, technologies, policy approaches and best practices in developing and developed countries.
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A new World Water Quality Portal (link is external), launched by UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP), provides information on freshwater quality at the global scale using remote sensing data. Water quality affects human health, as well as ecosystems, biodiversity, food production and economic growth. While improving water quality worldwide is essential to sustainable development, reliable data is scarce, especially in remote areas and developing countries where monitoring networks and capacity are lacking.

© IIWQ World Water Quality Portal, UNESCO / EOMAP
The IIWQ World Water Quality Portal (link is external) addresses an urgent need to enhance the knowledge base and access to information in order to better understand the impacts of climate- and human-induced change on water security. It will facilitate science-based, informed decision-making for water management and support Member States’ efforts in implementing the Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation (SDG 6), as well as several other Goals and Targets that are linked directly to water quality and water pollution.

The portal, which was developed in the framework of UNESCO-IHP’s International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ), provides data on five key indicators of the state of water quality: turbidity and sedimentation distribution, chlorophyll-a, Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), organic absorption and surface temperature. These indicators also provide information on the impact of other sectors and land uses such as urban areas, fertilizer use in agriculture, climate change or dam and reservoir management. For example, tracking changes in turbidity (the degree to which light is backscattered by particles in the water) is useful when monitoring sediment plumes from dredging and dumping activities. Chlorophyll-a is a pigment found in phytoplankton cells, while the HAB indicator shows possible areas affected by harmful algae blooms formed by cyanobacteria containing phycocyanin. The Portal uses optical data from Landsat and Sentinel-2 satellites, which are open access, and a computational system, developed by EOMAP, Germany.

In this demonstration phase, the IIWQ World Water Quality Portal provides time-series data for seven river basins and surface water resources in all regions of the world, monitoring these five indicators since January 2016. The demonstration basins and regions are: Lake Sevan in the Caucasus highlands (Armenia and Azerbaijan); the Itaipu Reservoir and Parana River Basin (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay); the Mecklenburg Lake Plateau (Germany); the River Nile and Aswan Reservoir (Egypt and Sudan); the Mekong Delta (Vietnam); the Florida Lakes (USA); and the Zambezi River Basin (Zambia and Zimbabwe). It also includes training materials to facilitate capacity building and raise awareness of all stakeholders, including water professionals, policy-makers, and the public at large.

On the occasion of the launch of the Portal, an Experts Meeting on “Water Quality Monitoring using Earth Observation and Satellite-based Information” was organized on 22-23 January 2018 in order to explore the potential of Earth Observation in filling the global data gap on water quality. Among the institutions represented, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the Japan Aerospace exploration Agency (JAXA), and the European Space Agency (ESA), expressed their interest in collaborating with UNESCO-IHP’s IIWQ to further develop the Portal. The representatives of these organizations and several Member States highlighted the Portal’s role in promoting of the use of scientific data for policy-making and in raising awareness of the value of satellite data for water resources management and monitoring.

An exhibition entitled “Water Quality from the Space – Mesmerizing Images of Earth Observation” was also shown at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (22-26 January) to mark the launch of the Portal. It presents results of the demonstration phase and features a collection of Earth observation images, displaying the state of water quality in major rivers, lakes, reservoirs and coastal deltas around the world. It stresses the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and shows the full potential of Earth Observation for global water assessment.

The portal is a further addition to the set of tools provided by UNESCO to help Member States monitor and manage water resources sustainably and reach the Sustainable Development Goals. These include interactive databases such as the Water Information Network System, and regular assessment and monitoring publications such as the annual World Water Development Report, and reports to monitor progess on the indicators of SDG6, the first of which will be released in June 2018.
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The UK Space Agency will use satellite imagery and earth observation data to help countries in Asia tackle forest fires, dengue and illegal fishing, it was announced.

Through its International Partnership Programme, the agency works with governments all over the world to improve disaster response or infectious disease management, for example.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, the agency will use satellites to map dry peat conditions, as forest fires often occur over drained peatland areas. With data on water levels in the peatlands, authorities can make decisions to mitigate the risk of fires.

Another project under the partnership will monitor dengue outbreaks in Vietnam. It will be possible to predict the likelihood of future dengue epidemics by linking earth observation data with climate forecasting and land surface data. The project will also be able to provide dengue forecasts under various climate change scenarios.

A third project will use satellite data to understand the location, time and behaviour of specific vessels at sea in the Philippines, in an effort to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The agency has set aside a total of £11 million (US$15.3 million) for these three projects in particular. It will be funding ten projects altogether, totalling £38 million (US$ 52.9 million). They include an initiative in Colombia to monitor illegal gold mining; a project to help herders in Mongolia to build resilience against extreme weather; and an effort to monitor dam failures in Peru.

“The UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme will help developing countries tackle big issues like disaster relief and disease control, while showcasing the services and technology on offer from our leading space businesses,” UK Minister for Universities, Science, Research & Innovation Sam Gyimah said in a statement.

One existing project under the programme has helped to reduce the impact of natural disasters in the Philippines. A public-private partnership between the Philippines government and a satellite communications provider was called into action in December and January, when tropical storms killed hundreds of people and displaced tens of thousands more to evacuation centres.