Enabling the public sector to save money, innovate and make more effective policy decisions by using space technology and data

Case Study: Ambiental – Improving national flood resilience through early warning using intelligent satellite SAR and hydrological modelling

General Information

  • Provider: Ambiental in partnership with Telespazio
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO)
  • Thematic area: Natural Hazards
  • End user(s): Central Government, Local Authority, Emergency Responders
  • Website: www.ambiental.co.uk

Year

  • 2016

This project was selected through an SSGP competition run using Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), supported by Innovate UK.

This project was set to develop and implement a service which provides improved levels of flood-relevant information delivery for, initially, the First Responder community. The key aims of this project were to:

Improve upon existing flood response capability;
Extend specialist knowledge of flood response at the national level;
Help the public sector create sustainable and innovative operational services from satellite data that could generate economic growth; and
Develop a proven, market-ready service for commercialisation and export which leverages existing government investments.

The project successfully managed to integrate data feeds to make the most of available resources. It created a national prioritisation map to allow confident and automated decision making.

The project developed an end-to-end workflow providing a viable proof of concept for automated identification and prioritisation of specific locations, in the general region of where flooding is expected.

SAR satellite imagery was used to enable the capture of accurate and usable flood extent data from locations where they will provide the greatest benefit to the end user community, and deliver these products within timescales which maximise user benefits. Satellite capture is post-processed to generate an estimated flood envelope. 

This was tested during Storm Desmond – with satellite tasking automatically capturing Carlisle and surroundings.

Flood Risk Prioritisation Map for Cumbria            Flood extent for Carlisle, resulting
                                                                                            from Storm Desmond (Dec 2016)

Click here to view the image at full size Click here to view the image at full size

Lessons Learned

The project has determined that it is possible to extract flood extents from high resolution satellite imagery in under 10 hours from acquisition.

An end-to-end workflow providing a viable proof of concept for automated identification and prioritisation of specific locations, in the general region of where flooding is expected.

Costs and Benefits

Potential cost per acquisition is likely to be under £10k, but a more complex pricing and cost model needs development in Phase 2 due to market feedback.

The primary benefit is the potential for improved location-specific intelligence for the responder community.

More accurate and timely data could ultimately lead to the saving of cost or lives through better informed decision making (e.g. route planning).

Next Steps

A series of calibration, optimisation and validation (back) tests have been designed as part of Phase 2.