METEOR: Modelling Exposure Through Earth Observation Routines

METEOR is a UK Space Agency International Partnership (IPP) project addressing the poor understanding, in some ODA countries, of population exposure to multiple natural hazards. With that in mind, METEOR is co-developing satellite-based Earth Observation (EO) routines to deliver robust information on population exposure and its vulnerability to multi-hazards including earthquakes, flooding, landslides and volcanoes. 

This project is led by the British Geological Survey (BGS) in partnership with the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET), the Disaster Management Department of the Prime Minister’s Office of Tanzania (DMD), the Global Earthquake Model Foundation (GEM), ImageCat, FATHOM, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and Oxford Policy Management (OPM). 

To date the project has delivered: classification schemes for building exposure and population, loss data fragility models, national hazard footprints for Nepal (seismic, flood, landslide) and Tanzania (seismic, flood, volcanic) and a methodology for integrating multi-hazards with exposure data.

Frequent meetings of the consortium have improved the outputs of the project, and encourage knowledge exchange and co-development. A recent meeting of project partners in Nepal also included two stakeholder events – one aimed at policymakers and another for technical users. In these sessions, we discussed the methods employed to collect the exposure data from EO techniques and to aggregate these with ground-based surveys (led by Ramani Huria for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team in Tanzania and Kathmandu Living Labs in Nepal). We also discussed the national hazard footprints and received valuable feedback on their usability. 

In the coming months, METEOR will deliver national exposure data for both Nepal and Tanzania, as well as exposure data for all of the remaining LDC ODA countries (at a lower resolution). We will also provide multi-hazard assessments for both Tanzania and Nepal using the framework developed in this project, as well as developing training materials for the various METEOR outputs. The METEOR data and methods are being made openly available through online portals. More information about METEOR can be found at

Policy stakeholder workshop in Kathmandu, November 2019

Meet satellite technology’s latest sector: How space tech can be used in financial services

While satellites capable of imaging the Earth have been in orbit for decades, the space sector is now undergoing a revolution. Due to advances in manufacturing techniques and innovation in space technology, there is an abundance of satellites imaging the Earth’s surface, providing an increase in Earth Observation [EO] data. Crucially, some of this new data is being provided to users free of charge. The parallel revolution in computer processing power and data science has allowed software to handle and automatically process EO data to extract insights. As costs fall and analytical products and platforms mature, space solutions will increasingly provide the opportunity to tackle numerous global development challenges. 

Satellite technology is now frequently used in disaster preparedness and response and in monitoring various environmental conditions such as in forestry and agriculture. While these sectors are more mature in their use of space technology, other sectors are taking note of the potential of the low-cost, high-coverage, repeatable and global nature of EO data in particular and of the capabilities of SatComms. Finance is one of those sectors. 

Caribou Space, in partnership with the UKSA International Partnership Programme [IPP] conducted research that explored the current applications of space technology to increase access to affordable financial products to customers in developing countries. Through interviewing organisations at the forefront of developing and providing financial services using space technology the report explores a number of use cases for insurance, credit and payments, including: 

  • Risk modelling to inform insurance policies 
  • Insurance and loan portfolio monitoring and risk mitigation 
  • Design of efficient index-based insurance products
  • Remote decision making on verification of insurance claims
  • Remote decision-making on credit risk profile
  • Satellite communication enabling payments and transactions in remote areas 

Through an analysis of these use cases – a number of themes around the use of space technology for financial services are discussed i.e. which sectors, types financial services and business models are dominant. 

Lastly the report reflects on what is the impact on both business and financial service users, when space technology is used. 

While using Space technology for financial services is comparatively new, it is clear that space technology offers advantages in areas where other sources of information are limited. The analysis presented in this report provide a perspective and a path forward to leveraging space technology in financial services. The future is bright for space technology in the finance sector, and now is the time to seize this opportunity. Access the report here. 

IPP Presence in UK Space Conference

The International Partnership Programme was well represented at the 2019 UK Space Conference which this year welcomed its highest number of delegates so far (>2,100).   

Session hosted by David Taverner (Caribou Space) on the use of space for international development

A 30-minute ‘101’ on IPP was held on the first day of the Conference, by IPP’s Head of International Relations, Liz Cox, who chaired the session and was joined by two representatives of the Forests 2020 project: Sarah Middlemiss of Ecometrica and Yakubu Mohammed of the Forestry Commission of Ghana. This combination of speakers facilitated synopses from a programme/project level and prime/end user perspective, providing valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges of delivering satellite solutions for sustainable development. 

An IPP panel discussion was also held on ‘How space is enabling international development – from climate resilience to disaster response’. David Taverner, from Caribou Space, chaired the session and was joined by Alison Hall (Alcis), Yakuba Mohammed (Forestry Commission Ghana), Liliana Castillo Villamor (University of Aberystwyth), Prof Heiko Baltzer (University of Leicester) and Dr Gina Tsarouchi (HR Wallingford). The panel focused on the advances in satellite and machine learning technology that are enabling their application in a wide range of developing world contexts – including monitoring of refugee camps in Afghanistan and increasing yields of crops in Colombia and Peru.  

The conference coincided with the launch of a series of reports which highlighted the impact and the value for money which the IPP programme delivers. 

UK Space Skills Support Sustainable Development

UK satellite-enabled data technology, delivered through UK Aid, is improving the life chances of people around the world by providing better ways to tackle global issues such as deforestation, sustainable food production and disaster response, new analysis shows. At the same time this is boosting the UK economy. 

The three reports are:

A Three-Year Progress Report authored by Caribou Space for the UK Space Agency

Economic evaluation of the IPP: Economic return to the UK by London Economics

Economic evaluation of IPP: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis by London Economics

Three new reports show that space-based solutions are:

  • 12 times more cost effective at delivering sustainable forestry
  • 7 times more cost effective in supporting agriculture
  • Twice as cost effective for ensuring disaster resilience

As well as bringing down the cost of tackling these issues and underpinning better responses for the benefit of developing countries, the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP) has generated £279 million in GVA for the UK economy and supports 3,300 jobs. In total the UK gets more than £2 of benefit back for every £1 invested in these projects.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “The aim of IPP is to make a positive, practical impact on the lives of those living in developing countries.

“While the UK space sector is a success story at home, generating billions of pounds for our economy and providing 42,000 jobs, these reports show it is also tackling challenges and having a positive impact on the lives of people all over the world.”

IPP, a £30 million a year programme, has now funded 33 projects in 37 countries and built partnerships between 122 space-enabled data organisations and 132 international partners in developing countries. These projects tackle UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) such as support for precision agriculture, early warning systems for disasters prediction and disease detection.

Over 2,000 people in 186 organisations have been trained to use IPP-funded solutions. Based on current trends, over 4,000 individuals in developing countries are expected to receive training via IPP by 2021.

IPP focuses on using UK space data service strengths in research and innovation to underpin a sustainable economic or societal benefit to developing economies around the world. It is part of and is funded from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF): a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government, which supports cutting-edge research and innovation on global issues affecting developing countries.

Monitoring the UN SDGs

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the UN General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. They cover a broad base of social, economic and environmental dimensions to improve peoples’ lives and protect the planet for future generations. Around the world, governments, the private sector, non-government organisations and individuals are working towards achieving the goals, as well as monitoring national progress against them.

Traditionally, monitoring of global goals such as the SDGs is a complex process, requiring intensive ground level data collection, computation and many levels of aggregations. However, in recent years, many development projects have begun to explore the use of satellites to monitor progress against the in UN SDGs. Projects have been developed using satellites to monitor air and water pollution levels, to monitor the growth of refugee camps, population trends, urban development and more. In this way, satellite information can help us to easily, remotely and often cost-efficiently report on changes to UN SDG indicators over time.

However, new programmes, including the UKSA International Partnership Programme (IPP), are going beyond using space technology to monitor the status of UN SDG indicators, and use space technology as a core delivery instrument in sustainable development projects. For an overview of the early results and impacts of IPP see the UK Space Agency’s IPP 3 Year Review.

For example:

  • Monitoring tree-cover to predict likely areas of future illegal deforestation to enable authorities to halt deforestation before it happens.
  • Monitoring weather, pests and diseases to provide targeted agricultural advice to reduce agro-chemical inputs and improve crop yields.
  • Providing small fishers with satellite enabled vessel tracking to improve search and rescue efforts in emergency situations.
  • Monitoring and predicting the impacts of natural disasters to allow first responders to better prepare for and respond to emergencies.
  • Providing more accurate renewable energy scenario planning tools to enable governments to make the transition away from fossil fuels.
  • Monitoring ‘tailings dams’, dams that contain by-products of mining operations to detect abnormal movement and mitigate risk of dam failure.
  • Monitoring marine pollution and predicting the dispersal paths of oil spills to allow for more timely, efficient and accurate clean-up efforts.

These initiatives are less focused on passively monitoring the UN SDGs and more focused on proactively contributing towards achieving them. They provide actionable intelligence for stakeholders that enables them to make proactive decisions about resource management in real time.

IPP uses Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) to answer the question of to what extent a satellite-enabled project is contributing to the SDGs. Projects have an M&E framework that is guided by UN SDG indicators which allows them to report on their contribution to relevant sustainable development targets. Reporting is done through project specific logical frameworks (logframes) which combines information from multiple sources – including satellite enabled data, ground truthing, community surveys, and government statistics – to clearly and effectively communicate project impacts. In these projects, satellite has a mixed role in SDG monitoring.

For example, in agricultural projects, the process of reporting on the productivity of food producers (UN SDG Indicator 2.3.1) is relatively straight forward but doesn’t rely on satellite data to answer the question of how crop yields have changed over time. This indicator has an internationally agreed on computation methodology for data collection and can be collected directly from the farmers and food producers that projects work with.

On the other end of the spectrum, in forestry projects, there is also an agreed methodology for calculating forest area as a proportion of total land area (SDG Indicator 15.1.1), however in this case satellites images are crucial data sources for these calculations (although the challenge of attributing forest change to a particular project is more complicated).

Typically, the reporting of data on these indicators is led by nation states, but increasingly non-state actors such as companies are playing a role and becoming an important actor in SDG monitoring. However, while companies gathering data and reporting on progress of their own contribution is a useful piece of the puzzle, it alone is not enough. Companies still lack effective mechanisms to be able to feed into national and global reporting structures for the UN SDGs. There are initiatives trying to set standards and clear processes for companies to disclose on their sustainability progress like the Global Reporting Initiative and the UN Global Compact, but none include detailed guidance on disclosure for the SDGs. At present, the best practice is for companies to set quantitative targets related to specific SDGs and disclose their activities and results publically.

Using Earth Observation for Disaster Resilience Planning and Policymaking

Each year natural disasters negatively impact hundreds of thousands of lives and lead to economic losses averaging US$250-300 billion per annum. These losses are often disproportionately high in developing countries that experience high-rates of poverty and rapid urbanisation, which pushes the most vulnerable into increasingly hazard-prone areas. Furthermore, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are challenged by a lack of resources to effectively understand risk, implement mitigation measures, and respond to disasters.

The METEOR project, funded through the International Partnerships Programme (IPP), is using satellite imagery to provide disaster management agencies with an improved understanding of exposure, hazard and vulnerability in specific geographies so that they can better estimate future losses from natural hazards and therefore understand the potential benefits of mitigation. Gaining access to the outputs of the METEOR project could lead to any number of subsequent actions to be taken, including land-use decisions, and building code adoption or enforcement decisions that reduce the annual probability of direct building damage, indirect social disruption, and loss of life. In addition, early post-event estimates can be used to prioritize search and rescue and the distribution of resources.

The METEOR project started in February 2018 and is planned to last for 3 years. In July, the METEOR project consortium came together in Edinburgh for the first of their annual learning events. The consortium is led by the British Geological Survey (BGS) and includes the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) foundation, Image Cat, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), flooding experts Fathom and M&E partners Oxford Policy Management (OPM). The meeting also included representatives from the international project partners for the two focus countries – the Nepal National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) and the Tanzanian Disaster Management Department of the Prime Minister’s Office (DMD, who joined remotely). Members of the project’s Advisory Board also took time away from their regular day jobs at World Bank, UNISDR and DFID to hear more about the progress made on the project and to share their feedback and recommendations on next steps.

The project focuses on geological hazards of specific significance within the two focus countries of Nepal (earthquakes, flooding and landslides) and Tanzania (earthquakes, flooding and volcanoes). A dedicated web portal which is currently under construction will host a number of datasets and maps produced by the METEOR consortium partners as well as protocols that will enable government agencies to keep information up to date and relevant beyond the IPP grant period. The aim is for METEOR outputs to be disseminated through a number of existing platforms and portals that government agencies already use rather than to duplicate the number of available data sources. A working group has also been established with members of the insurance sector to understand how METEOR outputs could also have commercial use cases and be integrated into existing business workflows to price new insurance products.

Over the coming months, the team will continue to engage in-country partners and will broaden their network to include relevant governmental agencies in the run-up to the delivery of training on the use of the outputs next year. This will include producing a number of communications materials customised to a variety of user needs to better explain how METEOR outputs can be taken up by in-country stakeholders. Over the longer term, the more partners can access and use the datasets for planning and practice, the more likely there will be changes in behaviour and policy that can mitigate the effects of natural hazards.

The IPP programme has a number of projects working to support improved disaster resilience, response and management (more details can be found here Caribou Space, the UKSA’s M&E partner, have written a report on how space technology has a critical role to play in this sector – the report can be found here.

Key Definitions[1]

Hazard: A process, phenomenon or human activity that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.

Exposure: The situation of people, infrastructure, housing, production capacities and other tangible human assets located in hazard-prone areas. These can be combined with the specific vulnerability and capacity of the exposed elements to any particular hazard to estimate the quantitative risks associated with that hazard in the area of interest. In terms of the METEOR project, exposure focuses on buildings.

Vulnerability: The conditions determined by physical, social, economic and environmental factors or processes which increase the susceptibility of an individual, a community, assets or systems to the impacts of hazards.

[1] Oxford Policy Management definitions (2019)

International Partnership Programme at UK Space Conference

The IPP team would like to highlight the upcoming UK Space Conference being held from the 24th to 26th September at the ICC in Wales.

The UK Space Conference is well established as the most important and influential event for space in the UK. For the fifth time, this biennial event will bring together the UK and international space community from across government, industry and academia to exchange ideas, share plans, develop relationships and seek inspiration to thrive in the new space age. 

The conference will again provide unrivalled networking opportunities and build on the success of Manchester 2017 where 1,200 representatives and over 100 exhibitors took part. 

In addition to opportunities throughout to engage with organisations involved in IPP projects, two sessions dedicated to international development are scheduled: a ‘Space 101’ on IPP on Tuesday 24 September (0900-0930) and a parallel session on ‘How space is enabling international development’ on Thursday 26 September (1350-1430). 

See the programme here:

The conference will be well represented by individuals and organisations involved with the International Partnership Programme. We hope to showcase the successes of our programme and highlight the potential which space technology can offer to the development sector.

We look forward to seeing many of you there.

D-MOSS – Dengue MOdel forecasting Satellite-based System

D-MOSS is a dengue fever early warning system for Vietnam being developed by a consortium led by HR Wallingford and sponsored by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme. It will give beneficiaries several months advance warning of likely outbreaks of dengue fever. The system will also include a water assessment module that will provide the additional benefit of improving water management in Vietnam’s transboundary river basins.

D-MOSS will be the first fully integrated dengue fever forecasting system incorporating Earth Observation (EO) data and seasonal climate forecasts to issue dengue warnings on a routine basis.

The challenge : Before 1970 only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. Today the disease is endemic in 141 countries, affecting 390 million people and with a global annual cost estimated at almost US$9 billion. Since 2000, there has been an increase of over 100% in the number of cases of dengue fever in Vietnam, and there is currently no system for forecasting future dengue outbreaks.

Our objective: Our objective is to develop a suite of innovative tools that will allow beneficiaries to: issue alerts for dengue and provide assessments of vector-borne disease risk under future climate and land‑use change scenarios. This will allow local communities to mobilise to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites thus reducing incidents of dengue. In combination with better outbreak response, we expect the project to contribute towards a reduction in dengue incidence over the project lifetime.

Our approach: The D-MOSS project is developing a forecasting system in which Earth Observation datasets are combined with weather forecasts and a hydrological model to predict the likelihood of future dengue epidemics up to eight months in advance. The D-MOSS system relies on open and non-proprietary software, where possible, and on a component-based flexible deployment into a set of platforms including cloud-based virtual storage. The D-MOSS project started in February 2018 and will end in February 2021. At the end of June 2019 we will be delivering D-MOSS version 1.0 to the Vietnamese stakeholders.

Project consortium : D-MOSS is funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme and led by HR Wallingford, working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the UK Met Office and Oxford Policy Management in the UK, and with the following international partners: the United Nations Development Programme, the World Health Organisation, the Vietnamese Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Climate Change, the Pasteur Institute Ho Chi Minh City, and the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Vietnam.

For a more detailed description of the project see here:

Speaking at the D-MOSS launch event that took place in Hanoi on the 19th March 2019, Mr Kamal Malhotra, United Nations Resident Coordinator said “Given the significant correlation between weather factors and dengue incidence, a combination of water availability forecasting and dengue outbreak prediction enabled by satellite technology is a great innovation. The project we are launching today is exciting in that it leverages global and local expertise from across disciplines and continents to harness data and experience to create early-warning systems and analytic tools that can help Viet Nam’s health systems roll-back dengue’s impacts both today and in the future.

The UK is an innovation powerhouse. Space technology is one of our strongest sectors and I am very pleased to see the UK Space Agency and partners introduce a novel and innovative tool to help Viet Nam to predict and respond to dengue outbreaks more confidently and efficiently. This project is evidence of the strong and continued commitment of the UK to support Viet Nam to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals”, highlighted by Mr Gareth Ward, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.

Darren Lumbroso, D-MOSS Project Director from HR Wallingford, said: “We are delighted to be leading this ground-breaking project where, for the first time, an Earth Observation-based forecasting system will allow decision makers to identify areas of high risk for disease epidemics before an outbreak occurs, in order to target resources so as to reduce an epidemic spreading and to increase disease control“.

Attending the launching workshop, Ms H ‘Yim Kdoh, Vice Chairman of Dak Lak Provincial People’s Committee said, “The development of an early warning system for dengue will help the province to plan and prepare resources to be ready for better respond to the disease. This is also the expectation of the health sector, the Steering Committee for Disease Prevention and the Provincial People’s Committee“.

D-Moss Consortium Meeting in Vietnam

Monitoring Tailing Dams at Mines using Earth Observation

Members of the International Partnership Programme travelled to Peru recently to visit one of their IPP projects which is looking at how satellite technology can be used to monitor Tailings Dams in the highlands of Peru.

But what are tailings dams?

Tailings are the residual material leftover from the mining process and are often toxic and a major pollution threat. This material is stored behind a tailings damuntil the mining process is over and the land can be terraformed. The problem is that these dams are often unstable and prone to leaking pollutants and potential collapse. This risk was realised in the January 2019 when a tailings dam in Brazil collapsed leading to the tragic death of nearly 250 people.

Liz Cox (Head of International in IPP) at the project site where the ground sensors shown will detect potential movement in the dam

The UK Space Agency was in Peru to visit the DAMSAT project led by HR Wallingford. This project is using satellite radar and optical data with ground Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) sensors to monitor movements in these dams. Their intention is to create a tool which will give advance warning to the authorities, allowing them to take pre-emptive action when required. Further details can be seen on this video recently produced by HR Wallingford.

A key objective of this visit was to meet with all the project partners and the key stakeholders in Peru. The IPP team were also involved with a press conference in the Cajamarca region of Peru were the work is working. Mining is a significant part of the economy in Cajamarca and the IPP team were glad to see enthusiasm and engagement from our in-country partners. There is clearly a need for the project’s objectives and potential for positive impacts.

The project has issued a first release of its system which is being reviews by the project partners and stakeholders. By the end of the project in March of 2021 they intend on having be a fully operational system, able to monitor industrial tailings dams remotely and alert the relevant authorities to heighted risk and the areas of potential impact.

This project is one of three projects in Peru, with IPP having a total of 33 projects working in 37 countries, working on a range of issues. See our website for more details on these projects around the world.