The UK Space Agency has announced £2 million of funding to support the development of new British earth observation technologies, as well as an online portal giving access to real-time imagery from the EU’s Copernicus satellite programme.
The funding is to be managed by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), a consortium of academic and industry experts, with support from the University of Leicester, Airbus Defence and Space UK and RAL Space.
The government said the funding is aimed at joint projects involving both industry and academia and estimated previous grant recipients helped UK industry win more than £150 million in external contracts over a 10-year period.
Successful projects may gain access to an additional government funding pot of £10 million to further develop their ideas, the government said.
Earth observation technologies can help manage issues such as deforestation, disaster monitoring, food security and coastal pollution.
“The UK is already a world-leader in satellite technology and Earth observation and this investment will help us keep the competitive edge in the design, development and build of instruments on future spacecraft,” said minister for universities, science, research and innovation Jo Johnson.
The aim of the new Sentinel Data Access Service (SEDAS) web portal is to give anyone in the UK access to 30 days of high-quality satellite data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus programme.
Copernicus is the world’s largest single earth observation programme, and has been under development by the ESA since 1998.
SEDAS, funded by the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult, is initially to give access to radar data from Copernicus’ Sentinel 1 satellite (pictured), launched in 2014.
Users can search the data by location by drawing a shape or uploading a shape file to define their area of interest or time, and can download the results as well as accessing details of data scheduled to be collected over the next fortnight.
Optical data from Sentinel 2, launched last year, is to be added “in the near future”, according to the agency.
The data is already being used in monitoring land use, and its high revisit frequency and ability to distinguish between different crop types and provide data on plant growth may aid in the development of precision farming.
The satellites provide global coverage of the Earth’s land surface every ten days.
“By helping users understand what data is available, and how to access and use it, we can help use of satellites for evidence-based decision making, information gathering and environment monitoring,” stated Satellite Applications Catapult chief executive Stuart Martin.
In June IT industry body BCS warned that exit from the EU means British universities and research labs stand to lose the 8.8 billion euros (£7.46 billion) in funding they receive through participation in pan-European initiatives such as CERN and the European Space Agency unless the government steps in.