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Global 3D model of urban areas, generated using TanDEM-X Satellite data. Sophisticated AI procedures are used. Image: DLR/ TUM.

The Munich Technical University (TUM) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have launched a new initiative focussing on the development of artificial intelligence technologies in Earth observations. The Future Lab “Artificial Intelligence for Earth Observation: Reasoning, Uncertainties, Ethics and Beyond” (AI4EO) aims to use satellite data and Big Data analyses to create models of global urbanization, food supplies and disaster management. AI4EO was launched in May 2020.

The knowledge gained from AI-based Earth observation data can help before disasters through prevention and preparedness, as decision-makers are able to design sustainable cities accordingly. It can also help during and after disasters with response and recovery by, for instance, helping to bring forest fires under control. This is possible through satellite observation of certain geographic areas for a longer period of time, among others. Hence, AI technologies are not only expected to... read more

Publishing Date: 16/06/2020
Participants at the training. Image: UNOOSA.

The UN-SPIDER Bonn office hosted a training session for Project Managers of the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" on the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany, on 5 November 2019. The training was organized by the European Space Agency (ESA) and German Aerospace Center (DLR). It took place prior to the UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference "Space-based Solutions for Disaster Management in Africa: Challenges, Applications, Partnerships".

More than 20 practitioners from Tunisia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sudan, South Africa, Brazil, Belarus, France and Germany attended the training. One of the focal points of discussion was ways to more strongly involve African institutions in Charter activations and satellite-based support to disaster response.

The International Charter "Space and... read more

Publishing Date: 29/11/2019
UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference. Image: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Over 100 participants from more than 20 countries discussed the use of space technologies in meeting the challenges posed by floods, droughts and other disasters across Africa at an international conference that took place from 6 to 8 November in Bonn, Germany. The UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference "Space-based Solutions for Disaster Management in Africa: Challenges, Applications, Partnerships" brought together space agencies, national disaster management agencies, international, regional and non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector to discuss how space-based information can support disaster risk reduction, prevention and response on the continent. The event also featured a hands-on day during which participants had the opportunity to explore a wide range of GIS solutions in depth.

Presentations and photos from the event are available on the conference website.

The... read more

Publishing Date: 08/11/2019
A photo of Mt. Etna erupting on 30 October 2002, taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Image: NASA Earth Observatory/Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory at Johnson Space Center.

“More than half of the world’s active volcanoes are not monitored instrumentally,” according to GFZ Helmholtz Centre Potsdam. Yet eruptions occur quite frequently, with up to 85 of the 1500 active volcanoes erupting each year, and can cause significant damage. For example, the 2018 volcanic eruptions at Fuego (Guatemala) and Anak Krakatau (Indonesia) resulted in 430 dead and missing persons. This threat to human life makes improving the monitoring of volcanoes all the more important. 

A German research team, made up of scientists  from the Technical University of Berlin and the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam,... read more

Publishing Date: 06/08/2019
A Sentinel-2 false colour image showing active fires in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Image: DLR/ZKI.

Satellite technology became an integral part of efforts to detect and contain forest fires in Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, Germany at the end of June and early July. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) used satellite information, along with images captured by the Modular Aerial Camera System (MACS), to create maps, which provided emergency services with up-to-date information about areas affected by the fires. 

When tracking the fires near Lübtheen, for example, the DLR Center for Satellite-Based Crisis Information (ZKI) used a freely available Sentinel-2 image, in which false-colour data offered valuable information about the status of the fires. Additionally, ZKI made use of data acquired by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to determine the locations of the fires. 

... read more

Publishing Date: 25/07/2019
A sandstorm over the Sahara desert seen by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station in 2014. Image: ESA/NASA.

The importance of using space technologies in the disaster management process has received growing global recognition in recent years. For example, the African Union outlined in its 2017 African Space Policy that among other things, space represents a unique opportunity for cooperation in using and sharing infrastructure and data to proactively respond to and manage natural hazards and disasters. In addition, the potential of new technologies and techniques, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data, to improve the use of space-based data is receiving increased attention.

With a specific focus on Africa, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its UN-SPIDER Bonn office, and the University of Bonn’s Centre for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) are organizing the UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference “Space-based Solutions... read more

Publishing Date: 18/06/2019
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
H.E. Gerhard Küntzle, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations (Vienna); UNOOSA Director Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo; and Prof. Klaus Greve from the Centre for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) at the University of Bonn.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) signed a cooperation agreement with the University of Bonn, Germany, that paves the way for joint activities to support Member States in using space-based information in all phases of disaster management over the next five years.

Natural and man-made disasters lead to loss of lives and property, displace people from their homes and destroy livelihoods, and threaten to jeopardize sustainable development efforts worldwide. Through its spatial and temporal coverage, satellite-based information provides crucial insights about disaster risks and emergency situations.

Under the title "Spaceborne Earth Observation Applications for Emergency Response and Disaster Risk Reduction (SPEAR)", the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), a programme implemented by UNOOSA, and the Centre for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) at the University of Bonn... read more

Publishing Date: 18/06/2019
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
SuperMUC-NG, the supercomputer at Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ). Image: Veronika Hohenegger/LRZ.

Data generated by Earth observation satellites can provide critical insights for disaster mitigation and management by revealing changes in the Earth’s surface over time. However, the great volume and different types of satellite data collected can pose challenges for evaluation. A new partnership between one of Europe’s largest supercomputing centres, the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ), and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), aims to provide the necessary computing power to analyse vast quantities of Earth observation data, along with other global data sources that provide frequent updates about the Earth’s condition.

Better evaluation of Earth observation data improves knowledge and management of global environmental issues. This was reiterated by Hansjörg Dittus, DLR Executive Board... read more

Publishing Date: 31/05/2019
The "Flying Laptop". Image: DLR.

Optical transmission techniques are considered to be the most effective way to transmit the significant amounts of data obtained day after day from Earth observation satellites to the ground for analysis. With a small test satellite, a corresponding data transmission via laser has now been successfully tested by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the University of Stuttgart.

Earth observation satellites  are used for many different tasks, which requires very large amounts of data to be transmitted from the satellite to the ground for evaluation. Today's radio systems are reaching their limits in this area. Optical transmission, however, provides the ability to send data at a much higher rate. The Optical Space Infrared Downlink System (OSIRIS), a laser communications terminal designed and tested by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), is compact, power efficient and light, weighing only 1.3 kg. The terminal is located on board the “Flying Laptop”, a... read more

Publishing Date: 23/04/2019
The false-colour image of the Italian landscape is captured with Copernicus Sentinel-1B satellite. This region is prone to earthquakes. Sentinel-1’s radar technology can provide images with a resolution of 10 m and within hours of acquisition to aid emergency response. Image: ESA.

A new project seeks to evaluate how satellite remote sensing and Copernicus satellite data can support reporting related to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (SFDRR). Cop4Sen will be implemented by the German National Coordination for the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (Copernicus EMS) under the auspice of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BKK) and in cooperation with the the National Contact Office for the Sendai Framework at BKK.

With the aim to support the national evaluation of the Sendai indicators, Cop4Sen assesses the potential of remote sensing and Copernicus data and services. Cop4Sen systematically analyzes the current state of science and technology, develops and enhances methods. On a long-term basis, the results of the project will support the National Contact Office for the Sendai Framework at BKK with consistent methods... read more

Publishing Date: 21/03/2019
DLR Humanitarian Tech Days. Image: DLR.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its UN-SPIDER programme, attended the DLR (German Aerospace Center) Humanitarian Technology Days on 6 and 7 February at the DLR Earth Observation Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

DLR has conducted research on disaster management and civil security for many years, with humanitarian action in complicated working conditions and the need for technology support being at the forefront, hence the organization of such an event.

This workshop brought together humanitarian experts from UN, NGOs and relief organizations with DLR experts to jointly develop project ideas and possible roadmaps to improve technology support in crisis regions and disaster areas, in order to make humanitarian actions more effective.... read more

Publishing Date: 11/02/2019

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), conducted an International Expert Meeting on 12 November at the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany. “Towards Big (Space) Data in Support of Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Response in Africa” aimed at contributing to an increased use of big data approaches and satellite technologies in African countries to respond to challenges posed by natural hazards.

The meeting was organized together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The Center for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) at the University of Bonn, a UN-SPIDER Regional Support Office, also provided support to the meeting.

Presentations delivered at the expert meeting are available on the... read more

Publishing Date: 12/11/2018
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Global TanDEM-X Digital Elevation Model. Image: DLR.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has released a 90-metre resolution global elevation model from its TanDEM-X mission for scientific data use. The data is free to download via the new Earth Observation Center (EOC) download service.

Digital Elevation Models (DEM) support disaster management efforts by allowing to map and modell natural hazards and risks that are influenced by topography such as floods or landslides. Elevation information is used, for instance, to assess where water will inundate the landscape. After an earthquake, damage to buildings might not be assessed correctly using optical satellite imagery as they might seem intact from above - information from a DEM can help determine whether buildings have collapsed or not.

For more background information, please see the "Data Application of the Month... read more

Publishing Date: 09/10/2018
Dry soil

A break in the heat wave that hit Europe in the summer of 2018 is giving a reprieve to many people who had been suffering from the heat. However, great damages to the vegetation and harvest remain. In Germany, the Association of Farmers has reported damages from the dry spell of over EUR 1 billion. Vegetation growth in various regions and whether there is a long-term trend in vegetation development can be assessed using satellite imagery. Identifying regions that are susceptible to drought are important for drought early warning systems and disaster preparedness. In general, the analysis of satellite imagery is based on the spectral reflectance of the surface of the Earth which differs for different surface types such as soil and vegetation. For detecting... read more

Publishing Date: 17/08/2018
Rise of the Seine river, 26 January 2018

The Copernicus Emergency Management Service has been activated on 23 January due to floods in northern France. Paris and the northeastern part of France are affected as a result of prolonged heavy rains causing a rise of the rivers Seine, Rhine and Ill. Authorities from Meteo France emitted an orange alert for floods.

At the moment, 20 departments in northern and eastern France are under orange alert advising citizens to be cautious. While in Paris the Seine river overflowed its banks on Tuesday, only small areas close to the river were affected. French flood risk information system Vigicrues indicated that the maximum level could go up to 6.2 meters during this weekend.

Post-event damage assessment maps

On 18 and 19 January Germany, Netherlands and Belgium were hit by winter storm Friederike causing several damages on properties, disrupting transportation and leading to power cuts in many areas. In Germany was reported that this storm was... read more

Publishing Date: 26/01/2018
The rising waters of the Rhine river in Bonn. Image: UN-SPIDER.

The UN-SPIDER team has utilised radar imagery to track high levels in the Rhine river near Cologne and Dusseldorf between 6 and 8 January 2018.

A combination of heavy rainfall, stormy weather and warmer temperatures than usual led to rising levels in the Rhine River.

By using the UN-SPIDER Recommended Practice on flood mapping and Sentinel-1 data from 6-8 January the team developed maps displaying areas affected by these rising waters between Cologne and Dusseldorf. The radar imagery is typically used to determine or assess the geographical extent of floods because such imagery are not affected by the presence of clouds. The Recommended Practice was developed by the Ukrainian Space Research Institute NASU-SSAU and it is available on the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal.

Publishing Date: 12/01/2018
International Conference on International Cooperation Towards Low-Emission and Resilient Societies

Disaster risk reduction and combating climate change and its effects are integral parts of social and economic development, and are essential if development is to be sustainable for the future. This is recognized by the Sustainable Development Goals that were launched in September 2015.

The United Nations has recognized the potential of space technology for socio-economic development through three global conferences on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE), the first of which took place in 1968. In 2015, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) launched the UNISPACE+50 process as a way to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first UNISPACE conference and chart the future role of COPUOS, its subsidiary bodies and UNOOSA in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UNISPACE+50... read more

Publishing Date: 05/07/2017

The The Center for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) of the University of Bonn recently signed an agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to become a Regional Support Office of the UN-SPIDER Programme.  ZFL is an interdisciplinary center of the University of Bonn dedicated to research and teaching in the fields of remote sensing, geoinformation sciences and spatial modelling. It was founded with the objective to strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration within the University of Bonn and to foster research and teaching activities in its field.     

Publishing Date: 03/06/2016
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
DLR Conference on Climate Change 2016

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) inaugurated the DLR Conference on Climate Change 2016 to provide a discussion forum on the considerable challenges in atmospheric climate research, on ways in which space and atmospheric research can support the requirements of climate protection and to identify tools and methods for a continuous monitoring process to ensure adherence to climate change agreements.  The Conference, conducted in collaboration with United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, (UNOOSA), has brought together more than seventy international scientists from research centers and space agencies and experts from UN entities such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).  The conference, carried out in the historic Flora Conference Center of the Botanical Gardens of Cologne from 5 to 7 April 2015, is expected to facilitate the identification of tools and methods for a continuous... read more

Publishing Date: 05/04/2016
The UN celebrates the International Day for Disaster Reduction (Image: NASA/UNISDR).

Throughout their history, societies around the world have suffered the impacts of disasters triggered by natural hazards. And while disasters continue to occur in this century, the knowledge gained over hundreds of years has been essential to identify ways to minimize the effects of such natural hazards. Ancient communities in floodplains and deltas developed the knowledge to identify areas less exposed to floods, as well as precursors to such floods.  In the Indian Ocean and in the islands in Asia Pacific, coastal communities developed and now use indigenous or traditional knowledge regarding the behavior of the sea in case of tsunamis as a way to minimize casualties in case such tsunamis take place.  

And while traditional or indigenous knowledge is an important pillar of the resilience of communities worldwide, it is equally imperative to combine it... read more

Publishing Date: 13/10/2015
Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 mission to measure ocean's surface topography with high-precision (Image: NASA)

The development and production contract for the Jason-CS/Sentinel-6A satellite has been signed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, at the 36th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment in Berlin.

Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 is a mission allowing to measure ocean surface topography with high-precision and to create a global map. The cycle of observations is repeated every 10 days with an accuracy of few centimetres from the oceans’surface. The Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 satellites will ensure that measurements are carried out on a continuous basis from the years 2020 and 2026 respectively.

The data will provide insights into global sea levels, the speed and direction of ocean currents, and ocean heat storage allowing for improved weather forecasts and storm surge warnings.

The Sentinel-6 mission is part of Copernicus, the European Earth observation... read more

Publishing Date: 13/05/2015
The double satellite formation TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X will be one of the issues presented at the ISRSE-36 (Image: DLR)

The 36th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment (ISRSE) hosted by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will take place from 11 to 15 May in Berlin. 

Stakeholders from around 65 countries will discuss the importance of Earth observation and satellite data when dealing with natural disasters and crises, but also for daily information about weather and climate, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture or resource consumption, among other essential issues.

The Copernicus Programme, the US Land Imaging Program and the TerraSAR-X mission together with the TanDEM-X mission will only be some of the several implementations on Earth observation and remote sensing to be presented at Berlin. 

UN-SPIDER will be participating in the ISRSE Conference within the Session “DISA-1: International initiatives for Earth Observation-... read more

Publishing Date: 05/05/2015
Coastal landscapes around the island of Hiddensee, Germany (Image: Klugschnacker)

A new study at the TU Darmstadt's Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering used satellite data to analyse sea level changes, which were traditionally recorded at coastal tide gauge stations by measuring the water level relative to a fixed point of the Earth's crust. It will allow the recording of data in a global reference frame, not only locally.

The sea level has been rising by an average of 3.1 millimetres a year since 1993. Long-term measurements recorded since the start of the 20th century indicate an acceleration in the averaged sea level change. Coastal flooding and land loss are just some of the severe consequences. Satellite data is crucial for protecting coasts from the rising seas, especially in low lying coastal regions as the North Sea coast of Germany for example, or islands in the tropics.

The scientist behind the study, Dr.-Ing. Luciana Fenoglio-Marc, aims to analyse sea level changes and to understand its causes improving the processing of the... read more

Publishing Date: 20/03/2015
Yvette storm in Southeast Europe and Balkans in 2014 (Image: NASA)

The European Commission has awarded a contract worth 12 million Euros to e-GEOS, to provide satellite maps for emergency management. The contract, identified as Copernicus Emergency Management Service – Rapid Mapping, will be active in the period 2015- 2019.

e-GEOS, a company established by Telespazio (80%) and the Italian Space Agency (20%), will lead an international consortium formed by the German subsidiary GAF, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Italian company Ithaca and the French partners Sirs and Sertit. Under the new contract, the consortium will prepare and make available to the European Commission, in a short time after the activation of the service by the authorized user, satellite maps of areas affected by a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis.

To facilitate the damage assessment and the assistance intervention management, the European Commission makes available satellite maps, free of charge, to all users operating in Europe in the field of... read more

Publishing Date: 04/03/2015
DLR and the United Nations University agreed on closer cooperation

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the United Nations University (UNU) have agreed to continue to strengthen their cooperation. Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Chairman of the DLR Executive Board, and Jakob Rhyner, Vice Rector of UNU in Europe and Director of UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn, signed an agreement to this effect on 23 February 2015.

DLR and UNU expect that their agreement will result in even closer ties between science and practice, additional joint projects in the field of Earth observation and climate change as well as sustainable resource protection. The two organizations will also collaborate on satellite communication and navigation, with the goal of increasing knowledge and knowledge transfer. This may also include exchange programmes for experts and the joint supervision of PhD and Master students. The German Remote Sensing Data Center (Deutsche Fernerkundungsdatenzentrum; DFD) at DLR is already cooperating with some of UNU’... read more

Publishing Date: 26/02/2015

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