UK announces £3.4m new funding for 10 cutting-edge projects that tackle global devt. Problems

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On World Humanitarian Day, the UK Space Agency announced £3.4 million of new funding for 10 cutting-edge projects that back UK academics using space to tackle global development problems – from the spread of malaria to human trafficking and forced labour.

In 2018, there were an estimated 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths from malaria alone. Using satellite, air-borne and ground-based sensing technology, academics at The Open University will detect where mosquitoes are most likely to breed and support efforts to tackle this deadly disease at its source. Once identified, ‘sprayer drones’ will release biocontrol agents that will kill mosquito larvae without affecting other species as part of the DETECT project.



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The projects in detail

Anti-trafficking using Satellite Technology for Uganda’s Sustainability (ASTUS), led by University of Nottingham 

The ASTUS aims to tackle human trafficking and forced labour. It will develop a stakeholder-informed data-driven Earth Observation (EO) approach to support anti-trafficking efforts in Uganda.  

This project’s space-based solution is the development of a Modern Anti-trafficking Support System (MASS) to support anti-trafficking decision-making and response.

Ensuring stakeholder buy-in and sustainability of the MASS underpins this project’s activities and are crucial steps in supporting the Ugandan Government in its anti-trafficking efforts.  

Crop Yield Decision Support in Ghana, led by Assimila Ltd, based in Reading

Big variabilities in crop yields make life difficult for farmers, food supply chain companies and governments seeking to plan and allocate resources. This project will provide information on maize yields in Ghana, such as current yields to help plan harvesting, transport and processing, future yields to inform markets and enhance long term food security and past yields to help farmers benchmark and improve productivity.

The monitoring and forecasting system will be based on the integration of physical crop models, meteorological data and Earth observation satellite imagery.  Information will be provided to farmers, supply chain actors, governments and international organisations.



DETECT: Integrated Space Technology Vector Control in Guyana, led by The Open University

Mosquito-borne diseases have a major impact on developing countries.  In 2018, there were an estimated 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths from malaria alone.  DETECT will integrate satellite, air-borne and ground-based sensing to detect where mosquitoes are most likely to breed. 

Through satellite communications, the system will then dispatch ‘sprayer drones’ to these high-risk areas to release biocontrol agents – killing mosquito larvae without affecting other species.   

Earth Observation for Sustainable Aggregate Supply (EO4SAS) in Kenya, led by Pixalytics Ltd, based in Plymouth 

In Kenya, unmanaged extraction of sand and aggregate has potentially serious long-term and wide-ranging impacts.  The EO4SAS service aims to provide Kenya with Earth observation data and ideas on how the country might improve the management of its sand resources.  

The project will deliver insights into aggregate resources, location, scale and practices of extraction sites, extraction rates, flows to markets and environmental changes on the land associated with extraction activities. The final service will improve the monitoring and regulation of aggregate mining and support sustainability in the aggregate supply chain. 



Climate resilient parametric insurance and emergency response for floods in Bangladesh, led by Vivid Economics, based in London

Vivid Economics and its partners in the UK and Bangladesh are developing a satellite-based platform to improve resilience to flooding.  It will assist relief efforts by showing resource needs at high spatial resolution in real time during floods, provide funding for emergency response through parametric insurance and improve understanding of flooding to support investment to reduce risk. 

The project team will use satellite imagery, machine learning, hydrological and economic modelling to project relief costs of any flood event, which will underpin the insurance product.  Over time this will support improved resilience to climate change and poverty reduction. 

GEO thermal Kenya: Earth Observation Insights for Sustainable Growth of the Kenyan Geothermal Sector, led by Omanos Analytics, based in Glasgow 

Omanos Analytics, in partnership with Global Surface Intelligence (GSI), will be working with the Kenyan National Environment Management Authority to characterise and monitor land-use around current and prospective geothermal power plants in order to support the socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable growth of the Kenyan geothermal sector.  



The project will combine on-the-ground intelligence from local stakeholders with satellite data, application of machine learning algorithms to satellite data, and dissemination of bespoke data products to key stakeholders. 

SAtellite SArgassum Monitoring System (SASAMS) – developing a real-time monitoring service for Mexico’s Caribbean Coast, led by University of Nottingham 

The dynamic nature of coastal zones renders conventional ground-based monitoring of Sargassum (seaweed) ineffective which hinders activity to deal with its negative environmental effects as it rots.

Earth Observation and cloud-based processing services offer tools to track, quantify and understand seaweed beaching remotely. We will develop a cost-effective near-real time seaweed monitoring service for the Mexican Caribbean Sea coast.

The service will provide early warning of seaweed beaching and its assessment. This enables federal agencies to allocate resources to affected areas quickly and efficiently, thereby minimising economic, social and environmental impacts and enhancing the resilience of local communities.

Monitoring Agricultural Productivity for Climate Adaptation – Mongolia (MAPCAM), led by Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd, based in Hampshire  

Mongolia experiences extremes of climate and has already witnessed above-average impacts from climate change on domestically grown agricultural crops.  

MAPCAM will develop information services based on satellite data to monitor in-season production of cereals and other arable crops across the whole country, contributing to Mongolia’s policy of self-sufficiency by providing better information to support policy formulation and the prescription of appropriate interventions for food security and climate change resilience.  



RIOS: Re-settlement Information and Observing System in Colombia, led by Institute for Environmental Analytics, University of Reading 
RIOS will focus on assessing the suitability of Earth observation to provide a monitoring service for managing informal settlements in Colombia. 

The project will help mitigate against the danger of loss of life arising from natural disasters in settlement areas and to support the re-housing of displaced people.  

Informal settlements in Colombia have grown in response to urbanisation and decades of conflict.  This growth presents a major challenge in Colombia exacerbated by the natural hazards affecting these settlements.  The government requires a near real-time monitoring system, together with robust governance strategies, that prevents re-settlements in areas at risk. 

Sat4Wildlife in Kenya, led by Fauna & Flora International, based in Cambridge

Kenya has lost 68% of its wildlife in the last 40 years. This project will harness satellite-enabled technologies and build infrastructure to support collaboration between conservationists and technology experts to help halt the loss of Kenya’s biodiversity, reduce degradation of habitats and conserve local livelihoods which depend on them. 

Led by Fauna & Flora International and WILDLABS in partnership with the Satellite Catapult, ZSL, the Arribada Initiative and Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the project that aims to create an online platform and marketplace which will bring together technology providers and conservationists to create an ecosystem of accessible, effective tools for conservation, for example the development of an open source, land-based animal tracking system to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.



These technologies, along with ongoing capacity building and education in Kenya, will form the basis of a physical Centre of Excellence within the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

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