Technical Analyst, Elena Puch, provided demonstrations of our the Smart City dashboard application at the UK Space Agency Networking Event.

Disaster Risk Management – The rising stars of space enabled flood risk technologies

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Disaster Risk Management – The rising stars of space enabled flood risk technologies

Technical Analyst, Elena Puch, provided demonstrations of our the Smart City dashboard application at the UK Space Agency Networking Event.

Ambiental recently attended the UK Space Agency’s Networking Event where we exhibited our Smart City Flood Forecasting system and presented on how technology can help tackle disaster risk management challenges.

In recent years the UK Space sector has been booming. The ever-growing availability of remotely sensed data, coupled with breakthroughs in computing technology is driving new solutions to global challenges. The downstream space applications community and its supporters assembled at St Mary’s Church in London on 30th January 2019. Delegates met with a wide range of exhibitors at the forefront of developing innovative solutions which utilise space-based technology.

Ambiental was amongst the exhibitors showcasing our FloodWatch flood forecasting systems. Our partners at the Satellite Applications Catapult stand demonstrated our technology which is deployed in Malaysia through the EASOS platform. Meanwhile over at the Ambiental stand we showcased our smart city pluvial flood forecasting dashboard system – which processes rainfall forecasts for London and models pluvial (surface water) flood risk across the city.

Flood forecasting technology

Flooding often takes city inhabitants by surprise, especially sudden onset flash flooding. This puts people at risk and causes disruptions to transport networks, damage to infrastructure, as well as putting pressure on the delivery of essential services and emergency responders. High precision advanced warnings of where and when a flood will strike benefits the people affected by flooding in terms of reduced risk and economic impact.

Ambiental’s FloodWatch technology is unique in being the first flood forecasting platform which not only predicts the severity of flood hazard, but also autonomously models likely impacts and quantifies risk. As forecasts change the risk profile changes dynamically. This integrated approach supports efficient workflows for monitoring and alerting, enabling actionable intelligence decision support. The system was developed to address the needs of project stakeholders Transport for London, the Greater London Authority and Thames Water.

Enabling smart government decision making

Ambiental’s FloodWatch® forecasting model deployed though our Smart City dashboard application.

Ambiental’s FloodWatch® forecasting model deployed though our Smart City dashboard application.

The UK Space Agency’s Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP) partially funded our system deployment in London. This initiative aims to drive the uptake and use of space products, data and services within the UK public sector to make Government policy delivery and operations more efficient and ‘smarter’.

In his presentation, Ambiental’s Chief Technical Officer, David Martin, explained how we developed our software application concept to create a centralised platform for the integration of multiple data streams to provide holistic situational awareness. Central to this is pluvial flood forecasting, delivered through a continuously refreshed, full catchment modelling process and a live impact forecast model. Furthermore, the Greenspace Analyser system monitored and quantified changes in land use across the city, to ensure that any changes which affected surface run off and infiltration rates were kept current to maintain model accuracy. Additionally, the project also explored integration of social media streams and Natural Language Processing using Artificial Intelligence. This data provides context around an event whilst helping with flood validation, which this GeoConnexion article explains in detail.


Chief Technical Officer David Martin explaining our integrated decision support system concept to delegates from across the UK space sector.

Providing creative space for innovative ideas

The packed agenda at the Networking Event included a stimulating keynote speech from space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, presenter of BBC4’s ‘Sky at Night’. This was followed by panel sessions where organisations showcased their technologies and then entered into discussions and debate with industry peers. Sessions covered Infrastructure, Forestry & Agriculture, Sustainable Development, Oceans & Maritime, Health and Disaster Risk Management.

Panel discussion about disaster risk management


David Martin discusses the challenges facing the Disaster Risk Management community and the role of space based technologies for analysing and mitigating the risk of flooding and other disasters.

During the Disaster Risk Management session Ambiental’s David Martin joined a panel of experts to discuss challenges facing the industry. Studies show that flood frequency and the tails of flood duration have increased at both global and latitudinal scales. In the tropics, floods have increased 4-fold since the 2000s and 2.5-fold in the north midlatitudes. David highlighted that whilst space technology is helping support disasters, more focus needs to be on using this technology to identify risk and help to prevent disasters happening in the first place. Improved new satellites and data streams will be coming online in the future and these will give us the ability to forecast floods accurately anywhere in the world. Technology such as Artificial Intelligence is adding autonomy and making major gains in data processing capabilities.

Ambiental welcomed the invitation from the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to present and exhibit at this event. The UKSA presented a stimulating programme of topics which demonstrate the power and potential of space enabled technologies. Special thanks to Sara Huntingdon of UKSA and the whole team from across the Agency for organising an excellent event which showcased UK Innovation and fostered collaborative approaches to utilising space technologies in solving global challenges.

For more information on our work in the space sector see our FloodSat page and article describing our innovative work monitoring floods from space.

For more information on how our technology can support your needs please contact us.

This article is mentioned in our Ambiental Review of the Year 2019 which you can read here.

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About the Author

Paul Drury is a Product Manager and Solutions Consultant at Ambiental. His role includes the steering of new product development and reporting back to stakeholders. He also works with our customers to design and develop world class data solutions to solve different global environmental challenges. Paul is an expert in GIS and data analysis with a strong 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