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

Case Study: Geospatial Insight Ltd -Air Pollution Exposure Management in Public Health and Urban Development

General Information

  • Provider: Geospatial Insight Ltd, RedShift Associates, Earth Sense, 3DEO
  • Technology utilised: Earth Observation (EO) Navigation & Timing (PNT) Position
  • Thematic area: Environment Local Authorities and Devolved Administrations
  • End user(s): Cherwell District Council and Belfast City Council
  • Website: www.geospatial-insight.com


  • 2018

This grant funded, demonstrator project was undertaken in 2018, in response to SSGP's 2017-18 Open Call Competition.  

Urban air pollutants, especially airborne particulate matter and high nitrogen oxide concentrations are recognised as major threats to healthy urban living. Road transport and combustion of fossil fuels are the two leading sources of air pollution in urban environments. As satellite-derived data shows, pollution may be emitted locally or carried by air flow from more distant locations. Urban Air Quality Action Plans of local and municipal authorities advocate modal shift policies that reduce dependency on car journeys, promote cleaner public transport and encourage uptake of cycling and walking. To tackle the challenge, the projects team provided air pollution information to support public awareness and education campaigns. Data was available as RAW as well as in interactive web application.

The project has confirmed that ambient air quality in Bicester and much of Belfast generally lies within the Low Risk range on the DEFRA Air Quality Index. However, we do report localised instances of significantly higher levels in certain localities due to innate traffic congestion and, perhaps more worryingly, abnormally high levels in the vicinity of the schools, the project has been able to provide supporting data and information to show the scale of the problem in a way that is not possible to do with the air quality monitoring facilities currently available.

Trials with sensors inside vehicles, showed that pollution levels were consistently higher inside the vehicle than outside and that high pollution levels were retained inside the vehicle for some time after the vehicle had moved into cleaner air outside.

By introducing the use of space data and services to what are generally considered to be terrestrial issues around citizen health and air pollution, UHL has created wider awareness in a number of local authority administrations of the potential for deploying satellite applications in a widening range of urban challenges. UK space sector SMEs stand to benefit as delivers of choice.

Next Steps

A proposal to the 2018 UK Space Agency-NHS Space for Health Call has been submitted and if selected, will exploit the outcomes from the Urban Healthy Living project.

“UKSA support has enabled the Urban Healthy Living team to really drive forward the development of a service that allows the wider population, from traffic planners in local government to parents planning journey’s to school, to understand the impacts of poor air quality, and to make evidence-based decisions as a result. We’ve been able, using space data as a key source, to make the complex understandable and actionable, and UKSA funding has been invaluable in allowing this to happen” - Dave Fox, CEO of Geospatial Insight Ltd