Sentinel Data Revolutionises Monitoring of the Great Barrier Reef

EOMAP drives new methods to enable the detection and monitoring of coral bleaching developments, using the European Sentinel-2A satellite. The T-Systems Cloud Computing Challenge Winner 2013 partnered with the Remote Sensing Research Centre of Queensland University and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to implement this pathbreaking work successfully.

The world’s largest coral reef on our planet suffers from the consequences of high coral bleaching levels. Currently, a combination of surveys from aircraft and dive surveys is used by scientists and persons in charge, to evaluate the extent of the bleaching. Especially considering the huge size of the Great Barrier Reef, this method is quite insufficient in regards to costs and time expenditure of time.

This is exactly where EOMAP’s innovative work, based on Sentinel-2A data, comes into play. The Sentinel data provide timely, accurate, spatial and consistent information over long periods of time. EOMAP and its partners are developing smart and efficient algorithms to exploit this data source as best as possible. Thereby, Sentinel-2A are taken before and after the coral bleaching, in order to be able to compare the exact same sections of the Great Barrier Reef.

It might sound like a simple task, but there are multiple challenges during this procedure. Deviations in viewing and illumination geometries, differentiating atmospheric conditions, properties of the water column, the roughness of the sea surface as well as tides and water depth contribute to the high complexity of monitoring and detecting changes precisely. EOMAP’s proprietary Seafloor Reflectance product normalises the perceived colour of the seafloor for atmospheric and aquatic optical effects through using physics-based and smart algorithms creating a theoretical true colour of the seafloor. Thus, the seafloor colour can be compared in a concise manner in respect to the complex influences of the environmental conditions.

This pioneering development enables future-oriented possibilities to combine field and satellite methods for monitoring bleaching for large areas. At the moment EOMAP and its partners are working on improving their procedure by including additional accurate field survey data for the benefit of monitoring researchers, responsible authorities and environmental protection in general.

EOMAP is the leading global service provider of satellite-derived aquatic information in maritime and inland waters for the commercial offshore industry as well as a multitude of government agencies. Pioneering the field of satellite-derived bathymetry and high resolution water quality monitoring, EOMAP services rely on standardised physical models which are independent of scale, sensor type and geographic location. Additional key services include seafloor, coastal environment and infrastructure mapping. EOMAP’s technology can be applied at local through to intercontinental scales, with the option of providing continuous and long term environmental information by harnessing multiple satellite resources. The company was founded in 2006 as a spin-off of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and is headquartered in Castle Seefeld, just outside of Munich.

Are you interested in creative ideas for pioneering solutions based on the combination of sensors and Copernicus data? Then check out the Copernicus Masters and meet us at this year’s festive Awards Ceremony and the Satellite Masters Conference in Madrid, Spain 25-27 October in Madrid, Spain.

Copernicus Masters
The Copernicus Masters is the largest international competition for the commercial use of Earth observation data. Each year it is on the hunt for outstanding ideas, applications, and business concepts that use such information in everyday life. Renowned partners are sponsoring prizes in seven topic-specific challenges. Along with cash prizes, the winners receive access to a leading international network, corresponding data, startup funding and other support valued at more than EUR 600,000 in total. Furthermore, the Top 40 of the competition will enter the unique Copernicus Accelerator programme to boost their ideas to the next level and support the mission to foster user uptake of Copernicus services.

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