GP-STAR - Overview of Space-based Technology Applications to Support the Implementation of the Sendai Framework

  • Disasters, basic uncertainty, deteriorating environmental conditions, climate change, population growth, urbanization, insecurity regarding food supplies, water scarcity, mass migration, and a growing increase in the demands for limited resources, are all notable developments we face today. They already are, and are becoming more and more interconnected, thus resulting in significant consequences on a worldwide scale. Space research and technology is instrumental in delivering a substantial contribution towards tackling these global challenges.

    DLR’s Space Research and Development program delivers solutions for technological applications in space and its main feature is delivering end-to-end system capability. Its goal is to advance science in the exploration of the Earth and the Solar System in addition to protecting the environment. DLR is capable of achieving this objective by covering the entire chain of activities - from fundamental research to the development of products and services for tomorrow. It offers assistance by providing scientific findings, information and knowledge that is both useful and usable for the private and public sector.

    The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 is a voluntary, non-binding agreement which recognizes that the State has the primary role of reducing disaster risk, but that the responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders also from local government and the private sector. Its goal is “the substantial reduction of disaster risk and loss of life, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries”. The Sendai Framework therefore calls for science and technology-based disaster risk reduction and promotes multi-stakeholder partnerships to support the implementation of the agreement.

    DLR has responded to this call and joined forces with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, its UN-SPIDER program and many other partners to establish the “Global Partnership using Space-based technology applications for disaster risk reduction – GP-STAR” in 2015 forming an alliance between space science entities, the technological community and disaster risk management institutes and agencies. The participants are committed to fostering the use of space-based technologies and applications and also Earth observation in the context of the Sendai Framework.

    It is of great importance to transfer scientific evidence and technological know-how if the operational requirements and realities of different countries are to be met. One of the priorities of carrying out space research, and working on further developing technology should be to make it usable, useful and feasible, also in developing countries. Many techniques, procedures and tools have already been developed and are currently being suggested for use. Both society and the economy largely benefit from these developments. At the same time, many potential users and countries are either not aware, feature limited capacity, or have difficulty evaluating which application best fits their purpose. GP-STAR is addressing this specific issue.

    Recent progress made in space research and development has been impressive. Space technology applications in various areas of current global concern have been created and made available. DLR has contributed to the advancements with several Earth observation missions, e.g. the highly successful TanDEM-X radar mission. In addition, modern innovative and improved systems have been introduced which can deliver highly relevant output at an unprecedented spatial resolution, as in the case of the global digital elevation model, flood mapping and the global urban footprint. DLR is now working on new missions, for example the planned Tandem-L radar satellite constellation. Tandem-L, a highly innovative satellite mission for the global observation of dynamic processes on the Earth’s surface could enable, amongst other things, a systematic recording of surface deformations up to a millimeter in size for earthquake research and risk analysis and a fine-scale measurement of surface moisture for water cycle research. The satellite design includes capturing data using high resolution optical processes including infrared detection and hyperspectral sensory methods to cover the whole surface of the Earth within a matter of days.

    The DLR Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (ZKI) offers a service that provides 24/7 assistance for the rapid provision, processing and analysis of satellite imagery during natural and environmental disasters which is invaluable in dealing with humanitarian relief activities and civil security issues worldwide. Future projects in the field of Earth observation are dedicated to global observations of the Earth featuring high temporal and spatial resolution and with the aim of not only delivering geo-information to better understand earth system processes, but also to support the monitoring and evaluation requirements of international conventions like the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework. DLR is working on innovative and precise satellite communication and navigation systems. These will contribute to the reliable transmission of sensor data e.g. to a warning center, the dissemination of warning messages and support in the functioning of communication infrastructures in crisis regions. Civil satellite-based positioning and navigation is essential for location-based data gathering and services.

    The GP-STAR brochure at hand is the first step in gathering information on the availability of applications and services and linking them to specific Sendai Framework requirements. This global stock-take needs to continue, but the current compilation has already proven to be valuable in fostering the use of space-based technology and applications and Earth observation within the context of the Sendai Framework. Teamed with the feedback and requirements of the users, it will give rise to new research and development aspects and further advancements can be made. We, at DLR, are definitely looking forward to this exchange of ideas.

  • The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is people-centred, focuses on managing risks rather than managing disasters, and covers both natural and man-made hazards. The goal of the Sendai Framework is to reduce disaster losses through preventing the creation of new risk and reducing existing levels of disaster risk. The focus of implementation is on measures that prevent and reduce hazard exposure and vulnerability to disasters, and that increase preparedness for response and recovery, and so strengthen resilience.

    The Sendai Framework recognizes the importance of a multi-hazard approach to disaster risk reduction and makes explicit reference to promoting real-time access to reliable data making use of space and in-situ information under Priority for Action 1, “Understanding disaster risk”.

    Such access is key to developing an understanding of disaster risk in all its dimensions including exposure of persons and assets, hazard characteristics and the environment. Such knowledge can be leveraged for risk assessments, and improved planning and preparedness.

    The use of space-based technologies and earth observation are essential elements in developing evidence-informed national and local disaster risk reduction strategies which are due to be in place by 2020, a key target and deadline for implementation of the Sendai Framework.

    Satellite meteorology is important to understand the earth's atmosphere and oceans and for weather forecasting. Satellite telecommunication contributes to reliable transmission of sensor data to early warning centers, dissemination of warning messages as well as supporting the functioning of communication infrastructure in crisis regions.

    There is a welcome trend towards free and open access to satellite data and growing capacity to extract knowledge and information useful for disaster risk reduction. However, many countries do not benefit yet to the extent possible.

    To foster the use of space-based technologies and applications, and earth observation, in the context of the Sendai Framework, the voluntary, multi-stakeholder “Global Partnership using Space-based technology applications for disaster risk reduction – GP-STAR”, was established at the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, in 2015.

    GP-STAR aims to provide advice and conceptual guidance to governments and organizations, and today comprises thirty-three partners representing national, regional and international organizations. The present brochure and compilation of fact sheets provides guidance on the use of space-based technology applications to support Sendai Framework implementation.

    I would like to acknowledge the contribution of GP-STAR and would like to encourage all partners and relevant actors to actively contribute to this well-targeted initiative which is a good example of the kind of international cooperation that the Sendai Framework seeks to encourage.

  • The Global Partnership Using Space-based Technology Applications for Disaster Risk Reduction (GP-STAR) is a platform fostering the use of Earth observation and Space-based Technologies and Applications to contribute to the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Sendai Framework).

    All in all, GP-STAR contributes to “means of implementation” of the Sendai Framework and to “promote the use and expansion of thematic platforms of cooperation such as global technology pools and global systems to share know-how, innovation and research and ensure access to technology andf information on disaster risk reduction” (Sendai Framework, article 47. c)

    All space agencies, universities, governmental, inter-governmental, United Nations entities, the private sector, financial institutions and non-governmental organizations active in the field of disaster risk reduction and / or Earth observation can apply to be members of GP-STAR.

    Due to its voluntary nature, it is expected that the members will contribute with in-kind resources and may affiliate their programs and activities which are relevant to the GP-STAR.

    The benefit to be part of this platform is:

    • Facilitate the dialogue among stakeholders in EO, satellite-based technologies and the global community of DRR experts and policy makers; • Access to source and repository of information on efforts carried out worldwide by the EO and the satellite-based technology communities, including surveys and guidelines to improve the applications of existing and emerging technology to monitor hazards, exposure and risks; • Policy-relevant advice to contribute to the integration of EO and satellite-based technologies into development process and public policies relevant to DRR; • Facilitate the use of EO and related satellite-based technology to monitor progress in the implementation of the post-2015 framework for DRR; • Share Resources - Place to share of best practices, tools, methodology and capacity building of national organizations; • Guidelines and methodology to conduct space based hazard, exposure and vulnerability mapping;

  • Space-based technology applications and Earth Observation have become an essential element in many national and local disaster risk reduction strategies. Satellite meteorology is important to understand Earth's atmosphere and oceans and for weather forecasting. Satellite telecommunication contributes to reliable transmission of sensor data e.g. to a warning center, dissemination of warning messages as well as supporting the functioning of communication infrastructure in crisis regions. Civil satellite-based positioning and navigation is essential for location-based data gathering and services. Earth Observation contributes to hazard onset detection, monitoring as well as to assessing exposure and vulnerability to contribute to risk-informed decision making. The Sendai Framework makes explicit reference to promote the use of space and in-situ information in Priority for Action 1 “Understanding disaster risk”. Additionally Space technology applications find its relevance also in all other priorities for action and contribute to the expected outcome, goal and the global targets of the Sendai Framework. An increasing tendency of free and open access to satellite data and growing capacities and availability of value-adding procedures to extract knowledge and information, useful for disaster risk reduction, can be recognized.

    The constellations of satellite Earth Observation platforms collect imagery with different detail, coverage and repeated cycles. In fact, satellite imagery, in combination with in situ data, is used to derive measure of the physical variables of the atmospheric, ocean and the terrestrial hazardous processes at the spatial and temporal scale these processes occur. Most Earth Observation missions have a global coverage, provide images at different time interval that can be used for crisis management purposes and provide a spatial detail for analysing physical and societal process. Earth Observation is also used to map urban areas and human settlements that are impacted by natural, technological and biological hazards and that describe the human presence on the planet and when in combination with physical variables their interaction with the environment.

    Earth Observation is particularly well suited to measure natural hazard impact and thus to monitor progress towards the priorities and the targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Satellite imagery are used to quantify the hazards, the exposure, vulnerability, damages and losses and used to quantify disaster risk, disaster impact and other crisis management processes. Satellite imagery area also used to understand the underlying factors of disaster risks including environmental degradation, deforestation and rapid urbanization in hazard hotspot areas.

    Earth Observation provides a number of information to improve our understanding of disaster knowledge as addressed in Priority 1 “Understanding disaster risk”. The impact and the risks are typically measured through the three variables, hazard, exposure and vulnerability. Some example of the use of satellite imagery is provided below.

    Hazards are measured through satellite directly or indirectly. When the hazard is visible on satellite images it is mapped directly. For example, Volcano hazard can be measured based on the land deformation occurring within weeks due to the tectonic forces (please see fact sheet on “Volcano monitoring”), or by analysing the extent of the lava flow or mud flows visible on imagery. Drought hazard can be assessed by observing soil moisture, precipitation and vegetation indices (please see fact sheets on droughts). Flooding is often measured based on the extent of flooded area as measured by radar satellite sensors (please see fact sheet “Copernicus services”). When the hazard it is not visible on the imagery it can still be measured indirectly based on the extent of the damage that can be recorded on the imagery. For example, seismic hazard is measured indirectly by analysing the severity and extent of the damage in the affected area by analysing collapsed or damaged buildings (see fact sheet Copernicus Services). In fact severity of the damage is well related to seismic intensity a relation consolidated in damage classification system of the Mercailli Modified scale. Similarly, tsunamis impact is clearly visible on satellite imagery (see fact sheet IRIDeS, Tohoku University) and satellite data are typically used to map coastal area, shallow bathymetry and low lying coastal areas that are the variables contributing to the severity of tsunami impact.

    Exposure refers to the assets that can be damaged by a given hazard and relate to the land that provides the food base, the ecosystems that provide natural services, and the built environment within urban areas and settlements. Exposure is measured based on a combination of the hazard areal extent and the human assets lying within that area. For example, the physical exposure includes the built environment that is best recorded in urban and settlement maps (please see information sheet on morphological characterization of urban environments, global urban footprint and global settlement layer). The agricultural areas are available from land cover and land use maps that are also typically produced from satellite imagery and aerial photography. One example to be highlighted is the estimation of crop mapping, providing valuable exposure data for the agricultural sector (see fact sheet on crop production). Droughts are often measured based on the lack of vigour of crops as a result of lack of precipitation (see fact sheets on drought).

    Earth Observation helps to measure vulnerability, the likelihood to suffer damage, in different ways. In urban context, the vulnerability is measured from the typology of buildings, their spatial arrangements, the evacuation areas, the location of health facilities or that of shelters. Food system vulnerability can be addressed by analysing infrared bands and vegetation vigour patterns over time against the standardized plant growing pattern.

    The Sendai targets aim to measure possible reduction of negative outcomes from the impact of natural hazards including reduce mortality (target a), exposed people (target b), economic losses (target c), damage to critical infrastructure and basic services (d). Targets also call for better risk governance (target e); cooperation among all stakeholders (target f); and the deployment of early warning systems (target g) all targets that require information on hazard, exposure and vulnerability that in part can be derived from Earth Observation. Target a to d assume that loss data are recorded in loss databases. Establishing loss data bases to be used to monitor target a-d is mostly a governance task (target e), and the big challenge for Sendai is to collect data to populate the loss database. That loss data collection process is not yet standardized and it is systematically carried out only within selected countries. Often post disaster satellite damage assessment still provide some of the most objective damage and loss estimates. Earth observation may contribute to a systematic assessment of losses and damages and consequently to assessing the targets. Furthermore and in order to understand the root causes of losses and mortality we should normalize the information based on exposure, e.g. the people exposed and the built-up exposed. This is a measure that can be derived from pre-disaster baseline information. In fact, over the decades which separate two Sendai Framework measurements, the exposure can dramatically increase due to urbanization, and that knowledge needs to be factored in the Sendai Framework measures in order to truly understand progress towards disaster risk reduction. The normalized loss data are key to plan mitigation, and preparedness, develop early warning systems that are clearly addressed in priority 2 and 3 of the Sendai Framework. Urbanization monitoring and planning typically performed using Earth Observation data is also required for the “building back better” the 4th priority for action in the Sendai Framework.

    Addressing Sendai Framework targets is also about international cooperation in a number of ways. First, countries that have accumulated knowledge and good practices can be set an example. The same countries can help to build capacity in countries that aim to close the disaster knowledge gap. International organizations may provide datasets, including Earth Observation, which would not be otherwise available and accessible to countries with a scarce supply of disaster related information. In that sense investing in Space technology application and earth observation will contribute to disaster risk reduction for resilience (Priority 3). Finally, international partnership initiatives including GP-STAR with its associated institutions can provide the forum for dissemination of information, knowledge, data and best practices, to help the implementation of the Sendai Framework.

  • Space-based technology applications are used as an essential element in national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by now. Many successful applications exist, one can observe an increasing tendency towards accessible and open data, tools and available services, and strong capabilities have evolved in the service provision sector to meet the known and - in research – the rising new demands.

    Under these circumstances and recognizing that there is a clear demand for conceptual guidance on how to use the different available Space-based technology applications for disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts at the local and national levels, the Global Partnership Using Space-based Technology Applications for Disaster Risk Reduction (GP-STAR) has been established during the Sendai Conference in 2015.

    GP-STAR is a rather new, voluntary partnership. The rational of GP-STAR is not to duplicate efforts by different organizations or initiatives. The rational is to leverage on ongoing DRR activities and to fill a gap: to jointly work towards a conceptual guidance on the use of Space technology applications for DRR responding to demands from National Authorities and actors involved in DRR efforts. It shall serve as a global hub, interface and network for Space technology applications in support of the Sendai Framework implementation.

    With this purpose in mind, GP-STAR agreed on an initial work plan. The current compilation of fact sheets is a first step to take stock on existing and available pilot studies, demonstration projects, operational services, policy options and guidelines with reference to the Sendai Framework. This already demonstrates that manifold procedures targeting similar information demands exist and need to be compared, evaluated, and documented respecting agreed criteria. The inventory shall support countries to evaluate which application best fits their needs.

    To continue the work of GP-STAR, the following items should be discussed and considered in more detail:

    • Approach and integrate private sector entities to GP-STAR
    • Attract more National Disaster Management Authorities to GP-STAR
    • Better integration of space technology application and earth observation into development cooperation
    • Better interaction and coordination with other voluntary partnerships under the Sendai Framework
    • Higher recognition and visibility of GP-STAR in the wider DRR community
    • Technical advisory support and capacity-building
    • Integration of Climate Change adaptation and SDG aspects and fostering synergistic uses of space technology applications
    • Attract funding to conduct pilot studies and implementations by partners reflecting conceptual guidance provided by GP-STAR

    GP-STAR is a voluntary partnership and currently builds on in-kind contributions several partners. It seeks additionally resources for its specific tasks. It pursues for strategic partnerships with development banks and for additionally resources for its specific tasks. Also GP-STAR is open to new partners especially from National Disaster Management Authorities and the private sector.


In this brochure we present the current compilation of so-called factsheets provided by the GP-STAR partners. The factsheets compile in a systematic and concise fashion earth observation and space technology applications usable for certain Sendai Framework components and requirements. Each factsheet addresses area of action, reference to Sendai Framework, example product, application field, methodology, key result, innovative impact, application status, area coverage along with background information, key publications and contact details. The factsheets are included in the publication below and can be downloaded individually from the table at the bottom of this website.

Download a low-quality version of the brochure here or a high-quality version by clicking on the download icon in the issuu window above (requires account). The factsheets can be downloaded below individually.

The graphics below highlight the contribution of the factsheets to specific Sendai Framework components and the application status. While most applications address Priorities 1 and 4, several are available contributing to global targets as well as Priority 2. It is remarkable that altogether ten factsheets can be categorized as operational/service.

OrganisationArea of application
Chinese Academy of Sciences - the World Academy of Sciences Centre of Excellence on Space Technology for Disaster Mitigation (CAS‐TWAS SDIM)Drought Monitoring and Assessment in Typical Regions of the Belt and Road - using the Drought-Watch System by CAS-TWAS SDIM
Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS)Volcano Monitoring using Earth Observing Satellites - CEOS WG Disasters Volcano Pilot
Disaster Management Training and Education Centre for Africa (Dimtec), South AfricaIndicator Thresholds for Drought Classification at the Country Level - Developing Indicator Thresholds for South Africa.
European Commission, Copernicus (EC)Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) A European Union Concrete Tool to Disaster Risk Reduction in the World
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)Watching from Space Agricultural Drought Worldwide - using the FAO-ASIS (Agricultural Stress Index System)
German Aerospace Center (DLR)Global Urban Footprint (GUF) Precise Map of Human Settlements Location
German Aerospace Center (DLR)Large‐Area Morphological Characterization of Urban Environments for Exposure Modelling
German Aerospace Center (DLR)Automatic Rapid Flood Mapping by means of Sentinel‐1 and TerraSAR‐X Imagery
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)Inventory of Glaciers, Glacial Lakes and Glacial Lake Outburst Floods
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)Rapid response mapping in support of rescue and relief effort
International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS)Analysis of Debris Flow due to Heavy Rain
International Water Management Institute (IWMI) South Asia Drought Monitoring System (SADMS)
International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Tracking vulnerability through Index-Based Flood Insurance (IBFI)
International Working Group on Satellite Emergency Mapping (IWG‐SEM)Satellite-based Emergency Mapping Guidelines
Joint Research Center, European Commission (JRC)Global Human Settlement Layers Open data to measure global exposure in time
Space Research Institute Ukraine (NASU-SSAU)Food Security Risk Assessment - Crop Production Estimation and Risk of Droughts
Tohoku University, International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)Mapping Tsunami Disaster Impact using Earth Observation Satellites
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)Policy Options for Improved Drought Resilience in Africa
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) Asia-Pacific Regional Drought Mechanism
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) Capacity development in space applications and geographic information systems
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) Knowledge products for institutional development
United Nations Institute forTraining and Research (UNITAR), UNITAR's Operational Satellite Applications Programme(UNOSAT)UNOSAT Operational Satellite Mapping Service
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and United Nations Platform for Space‐based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN‐SPIDER)UN‐SPIDER Knowledge Portal
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and United Nations Platform for Space‐based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN‐SPIDER)Recommended Practices
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and United Nations Platform for Space‐based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN‐SPIDER)UN‐SPIDER Technical Advisory Mission (TAM)
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