Knowledge building of UK wildfire regimes through online integration of geospatial datasets

EnviroSAR© Ltd. is an Earth observation (EO) startup with the vision to improve the efficiency of managing wildfire disturbance in moorlands and heathlands. Wildfire is a major hazard in UK moorlands and is increasing in the Rural-Urban Interface (RUI), especially in areas of heathland. Since wildfires incur socio-economic costs for all parties involved and are predicted to increase due to climate change, this environmental hazard is of high relevance nowadays. Discover EnviroSAR’s success story and their boost through winning the Copernicus Masters Sustainable Living Challenge by the Satellite Applications Catapult in 2016.

The winning idea

In the past, optical data were used to record burned areas. Due to the high probability of cloud cover and the coarse spatial resolution of optical data, they do not work well for burn scar detection in the UK. As a consequence, the currently used burned area product delivered by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) tends to miss the smaller-scale burned areas in cloudy UK moorlands and heathlands, resulting in an incomplete national record of burned areas.

The team behind EnviroSAR© Ltd. had the idea to use Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) which is unique in being able to penetrate through clouds to provide a more complete picture of burned areas across the UK. This solution, an optimised temporal archive of SAR-derived burned areas fills in the knowledge gaps that other EO products leave behind. After having secured Sterling Geo as a technical partner in 2016, the team could start with the creation of the EnviroSAR© geoportal which is powered by the established Hexagon Geospatial enterprise technology. The geoportal provided by EnviroSAR© Ltd. integrates a range of geospatial datasets improving stakeholders’ understanding of wildfire occurrence, the impact on the environment and on associated businesses. It will improve wildfire-regime knowledge, facilitate knowledge exchange, and allow corresponding mapping products to be generated. Ultimately, EnviroSAR© will help mitigate wildfire risks by making land management and reseeding practices more efficient. This will contribute to the existing efforts in preventing peat erosion and therefore reduce water discolouration and the downstream associated costs. Thanks to these advantages, EnviroSAR© Ltd. aims at becoming the first EO based national mapping and monitoring tool specifically for monitoring UK wildfire impact and recovery.

Based at The University of Manchester, the team established EnviroSAR© Ltd. in March 2017 after winning the Copernicus Masters Sustainable Living Challenge by the Satellite Applications Catapult in 2016. The small startup team offers a wide range of experience with Dr Gail Millin-Chalabi, Managing Director / Technical Lead and Dr Ioanna Tantanasi, Sales and Marketing Lead.

The next goal for EnviroSAR© Ltd. is to define the initial set of features that their geoportal will provide to the targeted customers. Currently the team is in the process of engaging with the key potential customers and market stakeholders to validate the product development approach defined to date. This will be done through software mock-ups and demos of their products to facilitate the interaction with the prospective customers. Following the lean startup methodology, the customer engagement activities are run in parallel with the product development to ensure that the feedback and learning from the customer can directly influence the latter.

In particular, among the identified prospective customers, the team plans to work more closely with water utility companies operating in peatlands and heathlands in the UK, which directly suffer from water discoloration, as well as with insurance companies providing policies to cover against wildfires in these areas.

In order to sustain the development plan in place, EnviroSAR© Ltd. is now targeting available funding and business support options, e.g. through a dedicated incubation at the ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) Harwell to which the team will apply in the course of 2017. Furthermore, the team is seeking new case studies both in the UK and further afield and would like to invite companies, organisations, and individuals passionate about solving wildfire issues to get in touch, as the team now enters the initial phase of growing their business, they are looking for investors and providers of seed funding to further accelerate their company’s

Over the past few months, EnviroSAR© Ltd. has presented their solution at several international events such as the Satellite Masters Conference in Madrid, Spain (October 2016), the Innovate 2016 Conference in Manchester, UK (November 2016), and the Global Wildfire Prevention Workshop at AIST in Tokyo, Japan (January 2017). The team will also promote their solution at the UK Space Conference in Manchester on 30 May 2016 – 01 June 2016.

Link to project websites

Twitter: @EnviroSAR

Words from the Copernicus Accelerator Mentor:

“At the Bootcamp in Madrid, a few minutes in our first conversation on the winning idea, were enough to grasp the great expertise and passion that each of the EnviroSAR© team members has for this topic.

During the last six months, I had the great opportunity to learn more on wildfires in moorland and heathland areas, their long-term impact, the implications for the communities, local authorities, companies operating there, as well as the implications for the carbon cycle and climate change.

I understood that this problem is relevant for all of us, and more.

Climate change is ‘the Challenge’ of our times. It is a planetary issue and it needs to be fought globally, but our efforts start by acting locally. EnviroSAR© is taking action focusing on the moorland and heathland areas in UK, moving the initial steps towards a national and then international solution for wildfire monitoring and impact mitigation.

The next steps will be critical to shape the first commercial release of the EnviroSAR© geoportal. We are working together to best prepare and conduct the customer engagement and make sure that the product development follows closely the learnings from direct market validation. I wish them all the best for things to come in this exciting journey!”

Francesco Liucci
Business Innovation Analyst and Spin-Up Factory Manager
Satellite Applications Catapult

Do you want to write your own chapter of the Copernicus Masters success story? Then go ahead and sign up now for the 2017 edition until 30 June to turn your idea into business, just like the IceCream Team did.

About the Copernicus Masters and the Copernicus Accelerator
AZO has launched the Copernicus Masters in 2011 on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) and with strong support of world-class partners as part of their mission to foster the User Uptake of Copernicus services. The Copernicus Masters is an international competition which awards prizes to innovative solutions for business and society based on Earth observation data. The Copernicus Masters has developed into the moving force of promoting cutting-edge solutions. In 2016, the European Commission has launched Copernicus Accelerator. This one-of-a-kind programme is focused on providing a tailored business coaching service for up to 50 finalists in the Copernicus Masters competition. Sign up now for the Copernicus Masters 2017 until 30 June.

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