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Season 1 Episode 0 demo Transcript


The following is an attempt to transcribe the #scenefromabove podcast for those who might prefer to read instead of listen

AC = Andrew Cutts

AG = Alastair Graham


AC – Okeydokey let’s see how we get on

AG – Right we are go. So, hello everyone and welcome to this podcast. This is the demo just to see whether or not a) we can do it and b) whether your interested. So I suppose we should really crack on and say who we are.

AC – Yeah what a great introduction. So, Andrew, Andrew Cutts I’m an Earth Observation enthusiast and I’m a freelancer who is keen to play around with space data but as we might discuss I’m more sold on the idea of it being Geospatial data than a focus on space data. I know you Alastair because of your company Geoger

AG – Yes so, I’m Alastair Graham and I have been messing about with image data one sort or another for about 20 years and I just like anything that is rasterised and taken from a vertical viewpoint. I play around with UAV’s in the past I’ve been part of a company that’s collected aerial imagery from aircraft. I’ve had a ton of roles where I’ve been using satellite imagery and I now run my own business called Geoger, as you said, supplying all sorts of services for people who want to get as much information using around land cover out of their imagery. And to learn more about their satellite data.

AC – You still like vector data, right? Even though you

AG – I do although I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m never going to be as good at PostGIS as some of the people out there.

AC – Your when you get a bit of vector work like ‘urrrgh vector’


AG – No, no I’ll definitely use it if I have to


AC – I know too many people in GIS world who are like “I don’t do rasters – this not you know, I’ve got a great tool, but… I don’t do rasters”. So its refreshing to talk about raster data isn’t it I think.

AG – Definitely yeah. I think there is so much of it around at the moment and so much of it is open so you can just get hold of it and you can start playing around with it. Hopefully what we will do through this podcast is really try and get people to understand that it’s a data source rather than just a pretty picture and although you can create those nice pictures you should be aware of what it is you are doing with that data source.

AC – Yeah right.

— News —- Sentinel 5P data available

AC – So 1st December today. The big thing that’s happened today I think in the world that we both operate in is we had a release of the first images from Sentinel5P and this is one of the Copernicus sensors and its launched October time, mid October [2017]. They finally, ESA, delivered there first image. Today I’ve seen a really nice image of a volcanic eruption in Bali. As well some data released over Europe. This a real, I written a little about Sentinel5P in the past and I think this is a real sort of game changer and once Sentinel 4, which is a more geostationary satellite over Europe, comes up this will be a real powerful atmospheric monitoring tool. So, you touch this stuff or..?


AG – I deal with Sentinel 2 a lot at the moment. I really want to get my hands on some Sentinel 3 so I can play around with that. I sure in a future episode of this podcast we will be talking about Sentinel’s and the Copernicus program because there is some amazing stuff that’s coming out of there and then fact that is all being opened is just absolutely brilliant. I’m looking at that image right now – the Bali Volcanic eruption from 5P — is absolutely stunning just looking at the trail as well you can see…

AC – yeah

AG – at the pollutants going across some of the other islands. I think like you said its going to be an absolute game changer in terms of getting people to not only think about the environmental impacts of various different things, so at the moment this is concentrating on a natural disaster but I’m sure it’ll be picking up all sorts of similar pollutants coming out of large cities and things like that. It will really get people aware of the planet and I think that’s the strength of all this satellite data whether its from commercial satellites or from some of the non-commercial ones that more than ever people are becoming aware. It used to be I would say “I deal with satellite imagery” and all they would ever think of would be “oh like the guys on the weather?”

AC – yeah

AG – and now people are always coming up to me and saying “well yeah I heard about this Copernicus thing” or “I heard about Sentinel” or know what Landsat is. Its absolutely brilliant.

AC – Its nice especially with this image, the resolution is good enough so that you can get to , get to, pinpoint that it has actually come from a volcanic eruption. Rather than in the past you get these very coarse images

AG – yeah definitely

AC – I’m sure your, as much as an enthusiast as I am, you know of very beautiful optical, geological – your traditional remote sensing images, but now we’ll getting a whole spectrum of, if that’s the right word, of data that we can do something with. And if it just puts the seed in somebody’s mind that this is possible it opens up a whole new channel of not just business applications, but educational stuff and that’s fantastic. When I was doing my Geography degree or even all the way back to doing things like GCSE’s to be able to get that image to compliment talking about Volcanic eruption would have been amazing.

AG – Yeah.

—News —- Geodata

AG – So I was at an event yesterday, Geodata, so it’s a big trade fair with side meetings – that type of thing. Someone was talking about how much pain and hassle people have about getting hold of imagery. It was really interesting, I don’t think that there weren’t that many people in the room who were dealing with Satellite data and raster data. So a lot of them were either your traditional GIS users using vector data or they were people who don’t use GIS and were coming along to try and find out what the new stuff is in terms of all of the new products coming out. It was interesting there were a couple of us in the room who had been around for a while. Whilst those people were newer to the sector were putting their hands up ‘oh yeah the data is too large to download’ or it takes a while to download and we don’t really know which bit we want to cut out. A couple of us were just thinking back to when Landsat wasn’t even free and open. You’d have to fill in a paper form and then send that off and maybe 3 or 4 weeks later once the cheque had cleared, you’d get something come through on laser disk when I first…

AC – ok wow

AG – then you’d have the difficultly, or it would be on DAT tape, and you’d have to load it all up. Makes me sound like a right old codger. I really can’t stress to people how easy it is now to be able to find data, view that data, create little snippets that you want and then to share it with all the social media and everything else. And the less restrictive licensing.

AC – yeah

AG – these are all topics we will get onto I’m sure at some point, cause both of us I know have lots of opinions of them.

AC – I had an old colleague who when we ordered data in the past, would drive to the supplier and pick up the data. That was considered economical at that point. Its certainly in recent memory you were paying £700 odd pounds per scene of Landsat data. And you’ve got this whole temporal stack. Its exciting isn’t it, it really is and the temporal natural of the data – this consistent, how far back does it go? 30 odd years isn’t it? You’ve got this great breath and depth of data that you can draw upon.

AG – Yeah.

AC – Previously you’d do change detection on one image or, sorry a pair of images or if you were lucky maybe 4, that would have been a huge cost. Trying to sell the data in that sense. Yeah programs like Copernicus and the open policy of NASA/USGS is brilliant.

AG – I think from a technology stand point as well because there is so much data out there its forcing people to think about new techniques in terms of how to handle it and how to process it. And I was going to say move it around – but obviously it doesn’t move around we now start moving all of our analytical methods towards data, rather than moving the data to our computers on our desks and things like that.

AC – Yeah. I saw this conference in the states, Pecora 20. The USGS Landsat program said since 2011 the global economic benefit from opening up the Landsat archive was $2.1 billion. I saw this stream of tweets saying its probably a massive underestimate, you just cannot quantify this stream of data that’s out there but it’s a huge return on investment. I don’t remember the numbers from Copernicus, but they say for every dollar or every euro invested you get a 10 euro return.

AG – Wow. That is absolutely phenomenal isn’t it? What I love as well is the diversity in which people are trying to use these datasets

—News— remap

AC – So have you seen anything else this week? I came across remap-app – have you come across this?

AG – No I haven’t

AC – Its an app that they have built in conjunction with Google Earth Engine. My plan is to mention Google Earth Engine as much as I can.


AC – In every podcast that we do. This remap, they are focused on large scale ecosystem mapping assessment and their webmap portal – whatever you might like to call it – has the ability for you to build your own classifier. So, you can build your own training set, set predictors, and then run the classification. And export the data and get an assessment and that’s pretty cool. All done in your browser. So, if you go on there its it focuses in on an island off of Australia – may well be Kangaroo Island. You can play around – change your area of interest all this stuff. What can you say the old times of processing on your computer – which could be a whole podcast in itself – versus processing on the cloud, or in the browser – the pace continues to change and go at a faster rate. I think there is a danger that you rush to the cloud to do things that you could ultimately do locally – you have to work out costs and all this kind of stuff obviously. You have to get a feel of what you are going to do and then use the cloud to scale, that’s where really at isn’t it? If you just want to process one image then you can probably just download it and host it locally. If you want to process a whole temporal stack Google Earth Engine will perhaps be where I would encourage people to look at the moment.


AG – I agree. It certainly was very impressive when I saw it in a demo the other week. I think it still needs maybe a few additional tools in there for being able to process or pre-process up some of the imagery although maybe again that’s where I need to change my mindset and look at it as a basically a new type of data rather than thinking of it as traditional satellite data. This web enabled data set where you can process up the entire globe in a couple of minutes. Just have to approach it in a different way. The web developers out there will approach it in a different way they will not necessarily need to know to much about bands repeat times and everything else. They just have this data shoved in front of them with an API and they can crack on.

AC – Yeah, well there is a danger in that isn’t there?

AG – Oh yeah.

AC – What I really like about it is the rapid prototyping.

AG – yeah

AC – You might have an area in lets say Cornwall where you want to look at a certain type of land use or vegetation cover or whatever and you want to see it change over time. Then it is so quick to do that – you don’t need super programming skills or anything

AG – yeah exactly, a couple of JavaScript lines and that was it, it seemed

AC – yeah and the Python library is deliberately written it so its almost call for call, you know you have to import the Earth Engine library so yeah, its pretty smart stuff.

— Music —-

— News — Morocco launches a satellite

AC – I saw recently as well that Morocco had launched its own satellite. These sort of state satellite things, has Nigeria got one, I seem to think it might have

AG – Yeah they have had one for a while. I hadn’t realised that Morocco had got one as well

AC – Yeah 8th November apparently, I think that went up.


AC – What do you think about, you know these

AG – Well its good, in terms I think the fact that more and more countries are seeing the benefit of space, but I am a little bit concerned about the amount of space junk that gets reported as being up there. Its only going to get worse the more things that get shot up there. I’m assuming and I might be wrong that someone’s on top of all this, isn’t only monitoring isn’t only monitoring it but trying to do something about it. I would think generally lots more data is a good thing particularly for people like you and me.

AC – The whole topic of the amount of things in space is quite an interesting topic isn’t it. In terms of visualisation and trying to communicate that its quite difficult because they are such small objects in relation to the size of the planet. So, when you put on the broad reach of the satellites and even if you put them all as a dot it would look like it was so dense it would look like it’s a total accident waiting to happen. I think in reality, and I am not basing this on any fact at all, I think it’s the equivalent of maybe in some cases a bus in London versus a bus in Oxford, distance apart potentially. You know the chance of them colliding into them is, as you say, we would hope it would be managed. Maybe we will get someone on who knows about this stuff.


AG – Yeah, I think that would be quite good.

AC – Yeah, I guess a person we could fire these questions to. You know they are important things to know. It is all part of the world – I like that it is in space I like all this stuff I like the story behind it. I was at Level 39 last night, it was a Catapult co-sponsored event and I was talking to a few people and its nice this idea of space but really, I think we don’t want to fool ourselves, we are Geospatial people, it’s the location of this data, extracting its value in where it is,

AG – Yeah

AC – is the critical thing. Yeah you can talk about the upstream end and the downstream end market of Earth Observation in terms of its broad reach its space in its sense is such a small component compared to navigation and telecommunication that were almost, not helping ourselves potentially. Its great to talk about raster’s and stuff like that as it brings it more into the Geospatial perspective. This is the data we are most interested in, the data. Just that it comes from space, I love this idea of looking at satellite data without actually looking at satellite data and getting a graphic / a graph / a number / a spreadsheet / whatever is the most amenable way to consume the information to an end user – they have to trust the data of course, you can always go back and that is one of the great things about satellite data isn’t it – its totally unbiased and I loathed to say auditable record that you can go back and look at.

AG – yeah exactly

AC – this is this thing we were detecting, this is the sand dune. We can look at the house that has been built if you have very high-resolution data. So yeah that kind of stuff is nice

AG – Definitely and the thing I like about satellite imagery as well is (and aerial and UAV) is basically data reuse and this is definitely something I want to talk about on a full podcast than just something now. It being to take that one image and use it on multiple purposes, so you might be looking at the shrinking and growing of a reservoir but at the same time for that image that has the reservoir in it so you can look at how roads are developing, you can look at the health of trees and agriculture produce and all sorts of things.

–wrap up—

AG – I think we should probably wrap up there we have been going on for quite sometime and if you have any suggestions about what you’d like to hear or any websites or datatypes or services or anything like that you want us to talk about then get in touch

AC – We need to have a hashtag. You could just find us on twitter that would be good. So I am and you are

AG –

AC – And we will try and put the links we talked about

AG – on twitter

AC – If anybody wants to come on and guest speak for a little bit that would be great, we could have perhaps a 5-minute segment. You don’t have to be specifically involved in space – you can just be curious about space or Geospatial or whatever

AG – That would be cool

AC – An end user would be brilliant, yeah, I’d love to see that or talk about that

AG –  ok cool


— end —


AG – This podcast isn’t sponsored by anyone its something we are doing off our own bat so any companies or products or things that are mentioned are not sponsoring its just cool stuff that we have seen and all opinions are our own

AC – Yes

AG – Just want to get that out there

AC – Yes you know, we have the permission to change those opinions as time goes on

AG – Exactly!


—end music—-