Ambiental’s collaboration with Telespazio is set to continue through an award of funding to further their research and development in flood risk mitigation technologies and flood response.

The consortium of Ambiental and Telespazio Vega UK are to continue their collaborative working partnership thanks to a new contract awarded through the Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP) led by the UK Space Agency. This follows on from the successful completion of two innovative phase one projects which explored ways of improving the smart tasking of satellites in order to acquire accurate data from flooding events and to supply data to end users within a quick timeframe.

Both phase one projects looked at improving the UK’s current capability to utilise space technology and remotely sensed data to mitigate the impacts of flooding. Ambiental’s project tackled improving resilience in an urban context through high resolution commercial SAR data captured from COSMO-SkyMed. Telespazio’s project looked at building a national floodmap which made use of lower resolution but freely available SAR data by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites under the Copernicus programme. The phase two project is designed to build on the experience of these projects and unifies the shared objectives under one discreet phase two project.

Monitoring flooding from space

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data collected via earth observation satellites is able to decipher water bodies from space. Through image processing it is possible to extract a flood extent footprint and turn this into vector layers for use in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Thereafter it is possible to improve the product further through GIS processing informed by Ambiental’s UKFloodMap hydraulic models in order to overcome some of the uncertainties and limitations of flood detection through SAR in complex urban environments. In phase one it was demonstrated that through automated processing and online distribution this data could be deployed to end-users within timeframes which enable better situational awareness to central command and provide a reliable source of information to emergency responders on the ground.

SSGP Flood Risk data Picture Blog Image

A SAR derived and hydraulically enhanced flood extent for Carlisle resulting from Storm Desmond, captured in December 2015 as part of the phase one resilience project.

As flood events unfold there is often uncertainty concerning which locations to focus earth observation satellites on. Typically this is a reactive decision which needs to be taken quickly. The practicalities of tasking a satellite requires that an instruction needs to be relayed to the satellite a considerable time ahead from when the data is captured. This can mean that the data being acquired is not in the optimal location and/or it may miss the peak flood event. These factors coupled with the length of time it takes to process and disseminate the data means that historically this technology has been under-utilised. The phase two project will address these problems to overcome locational and temporal challenges through logic systems which determine when and where to capture data. This will ensure value for money because the highest risk areas are prioritised and the data is captured at the right time.

Enabling smarter emergency response

This project has received considerable support from UK government agencies as well as generating interest amongst insurance companies within the UK and internationally. The phase two project will involve extensive system back testing against historic UK flood events in order to calibrate and refine the workflow between the system components. Furthermore, part the phase two project will look at the potential for exporting these technologies internationally to help governments around the world better manage flood risk.

Speaking about the project Dr Justin Butler, CEO of Ambiental says ‘we are delighted to extend our work with SSGP and very excited to continue our work in collaboration with Telespazio. This project has the potential to deliver real benefits to the flood resilience community and make a meaningful contribution towards protecting lives and property”.

How to get involved

If you are involved in flood emergency response in the UK or internationally and would like to discuss how you can become involved in the project steering group we would be happy to hear from you. To view more information on the achievements of the phase one projects you can watch this video on Ambiental’s resilience project presented by Dr Justin Butler and GIS / Data Manager Paul Drury and download the slides from this presentation. The Telespazio led National Flood project video contains further information along with their presentation slides. For additional details on flood early warning systems please refer to the Ambiental website or contact us.

Ambiental would like to thank SSGP, the UK Space Agency and the Satellite Applications Catapult for their ongoing support for this project.

SSGP Flood Data Satellite Project Blog Image

Ambiental’s Technical Director David Martin presenting the phase 1 project outcomes at our stakeholder workshop at Telespazio’s London office in March 2016.

About the Author

Paul Drury is the GIS Data Manager at Ambiental. His role includes project management of production operations and reporting back to stakeholders. He also oversees the preparation, integration and quality assurance checking of data assets. Paul is an expert in GIS and data analysis with a developed understanding of the environmental data industry and underlying technical concepts. He has a BSc (hons) in Environmental Sciences from the University of Brighton.

Paul Drury
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