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Using Earth Observation data without ever looking at a satellite image

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To enable a user to use space derived data without ever actually seeing a satellite image. To move from pixels to analytics. To break through the ‘that’s a nice image – but so what?’ barrier? To add value.

I wrote about my thoughts on this last week;

the need to move towards more than just basemaps (not that basemaps are not useful). To quote myself, ‘We need to be thinking of Earth Observation data more in terms of what, why, where and when as opposed to “that is a nice picture”.’

Proba V

Artist’s view of the Proba-V satellite (from

Proba V was launched in May 2013; read more and watch a video about it here. It is “… a microsatellite that is not bigger than a washing machine but delivers global syntheses with an increased spatial resolution of 300 m every day. These images are of crucial importance for scientific research in various application fields such as climate change, food security, vegetation dynamics, biodiversity, …”. Proba V’s stated purpose is to record information about land cover and vegetation and to map this every 2 days.

And in 2015 ESA reported that it had also been picking up signals from aircrafts around the globe. That is certainly a nice side benefit of Proba V. You can read more about this here

Information derived from EO data

How is this vast amount of information being presented to users? VITO have created a nice webpage hosted on the ESA pages using data from the Proba V satellite, but not directly showing the EO data to the user. Serving all these images is probably why the data has been summarized into analytics rather than stacks of EO datasets.

There is so much happening on this page, it would be easy to lose an hour navigating through the data and exploring it. But that is the point, right? You can get charts about NDVI in areas without having to process the imagery yourself. But more than that, once you start looking, the question begins to arise: why?

Why in June in England 2016 is there such a noticeable change in NDVI? Look in the bottom right of the image. NDVI is much more variable than I expected. But I don’t have to process out many images, I have the data here. It doesn’t matter how it was derived (though I am very happy it was Space borne), what matters is that it answers (or raises) questions, that it provides data which was previously unavailable or unattainable. Using these graphs I can look at a large temporal range of data and I can choose how I want to consume it, in a graph or download the data. The point is EO data is just another data source, one that is continuous and available to everyone, so let’s make more use of it.