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

Case Study: Airbus – Hub and Spoke Data / Mapping Service

General Information

  • Provider: Led by Airbus Defence and Space in partnership with Specto Natura
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO)
  • Thematic area: Environment
  • End user(s): Central Government (Defra), potential for wider application
  • Website: www.airbusdefenceandspace.com


  • 2015

Project Background / Overview

The aim of this project was to propose a new way of working to fully exploit the potential of Earth Observation (EO) within Defra. Defra, and the wider public sector, are currently being pushed to support the growth of the UK economy, whilst simultaneously achieving more with less. EO has been recognised as having the potential to allow the public sector to meet this goal. This is especially true with the advent of Copernicus – an initiative of the European Commission to launch a constellation of satellites - which is making EO and core environmental datasets freely available.

To date there have been barriers preventing the true potential of EO from being realised. One of these barriers is gaining access to EO data. This arises from the costs associated with procuring imagery and logistical issues associated with access and data management.

This project proposed a Hub and Spoke concept (H&S), based on the principle of ‘sourcing once and using many times’. Targeted at Defra and its Network, the concept addressed the desire to increase the extent to which EO is exploited within the Defra Network, as well as focussing on delivering greater efficiency in the application of this data.

The outcome of the project were three architectural options for the potential implementation of a Hub and Spoke approach. The options are:

  • Option 1. The Hub as a centralised repository,
  • Option 2. The Hub as a repository and a collaboration platform,
  • Option 3. The Hub as a repository and collaboration platform with additional VDI capabilities.

Overview of option 1 which will be the baseline. All other options add enhanced functionalityOf the options discussed, Option 1 offers the best starting point.  Within this option the Hub would support centralised access to all components within the defined baseline specification i.e. EO data, EO-derived products and EO exploitation capabilities (primarily hosted processing).  This Hub is therefore designed to reduce duplication/redundancy in data processing and data storage.

Lessons Learned

The appetite for space derived products is vast within the Defra Network. Data requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Data: optical and Satellite Aperture Radar (SAR) data from Copernicus, supplemented with commercial data; Copernicus ‘core’ datasets; aerial photography etc.
  • Products: pre-processed and intermediate products and high resolution layers (HRLs) from Copernicus; digital elevation models (DEMs) from third parties; and bundled products like time series etc.
  • Tools: application of standard algorithms such as Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI); production of time series; functionality to generalise data etc.

Costs and Benefits

Preliminary cost benefit analysis of a range of options concluded that Option 1 was the most cost effective. This was followed by a rough order of magnitude (ROM) estimate of the cost of implementing a scenario similar to Option 1 to provide insights to the likely costs of making the Hub and Spoke model operational, which were used to inform the next steps. The running costs were not included in the analysis.

Next Steps

This piece of work acted as a stepping stone – a proof of concept – which culminated in the formulation of an Action Plan for future work. The Action Plan provides a high level synopsis of the roadmap to move from conceptual options to an operational service. Delivered using a waterfall approach, the Action Plan will lead developers through four stages: review, specify, implement and adopt. At the end of these four stages the H&S model should be fully embedded in the Defra Network and delivering the efficiency savings envisioned from the outset.