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

Case Study: Remote Sensing Applications Consultants – Flooding information for Hampshire

General Information

  • Provider: Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd. And KnowNow Information Ltd. (kn-i)
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO)
  • Thematic area: Local Authorities and Devolved Administrations Natural Hazards
  • End user(s): Local Authorities, Environment Agency, Defra
  • Website: www.rsacl.co.uk


  • 2015

Project Background / Overview

The aim of this project was to demonstrate to Hampshire County Council the opportunities that a portfolio of flood information products derived from earth observation (EO) data could bring. The County is vulnerable to flooding from both rivers and the sea and having ready access to information about both flood-prone areas and the evolution of flood events as they occur would help to mitigate the risk.

Hampshire County Council, as a Lead Local Flood Authority, has a duty to manage the risk of flooding under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. This includes needing to prepare a Local Flood Risk Management Strategy and investigating significant flood events. As a Highway Authority the County Council has additional responsibilities, and also must assist the emergency services in responding to flooding events under its remit as an Emergency Planning Authority.

The project put together a data portfolio to illustrate how EO data has the potential to meet all these needs, and complement existing data already held by the County Council. The portfolio included:

Flood maps: Monitor and record flood extent using accurate and timely maps derived from radar and optical satellite images

Flood extent, and height and depth of water compared to flooTABLd plain capacity: Indicator of impending criticality in natural systems

Land cover information for flooded areas (Land Cover Plus): Identify the nature of submerged land to assess the risk in flood-prone areas, inform emergency response and recovery strategies and to calculate economic impact

Catchment Sensitive Farming: Predict where farming practices could increase flood risk

Landscape change maps (crowdsourcing landscape change): Predict where there may be an altered risk of flooding from changes to the landscape

Rapid response detailed aerial survey by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV): Obtain flood plain mapping to support mitigation scenario testing and provide low-cost, up-to-date elevation models

Crowdsourced geo-tagged eyewitness information: Text and photos submitted by the public about evolving flood events

The scope of this project was to establish if a Flooding Information for Hampshire service is feasible, to identify the range of data products available and to demonstrate the potential benefits it could bring. Further work, including the creation of a business model, will be needed to bring this service to fruition.

Lessons Learned

There is a wealth of information available which could be better utilised through the implementation of a flooding information for Hampshire service.

Costs and Benefits

Flooding cost Hampshire County Council £68.5 million in 2013/4. The aim of this project was to demonstrate that environmental data from the European Copernicus programme, which is freely available under its open data policy, could be used to generate valuable information that could bring about cost savings. Access to improved information would lead to:

  • More effective natural hazard risk management,
  • Better information and policy decision making, and
  • A more efficient and timely response to flood events.

There are also potential gains from using such data for those working outside the public sector, such as those handling insurance claims.

Next Steps

This project demonstrated the diverse range of data products available through the transformation and manipulation of data from the Copernicus programme. The next steps are to turn these data products into a flood information and rapid response service.

Aimed at Local Government, Defra, the Environment Agency and other similar bodies / agencies the service is envisaged to:

  • Map flood prone areas,
  • Support mitigation planning,
  • Integrate flood alert triggers from a range of sources e.g. the Environment Agency’s flood warnings, KnowNow’s Flood Event Model etc.
  • Monitor the extent of flooding across large areas using data from Sentinel-1,
  • Map flooding in areas of particular interest using high resolution imagery from systems like COSMO-SkyMed,
  • Provide rapid response Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) surveys of flood damage,
  • Quantify the extent of flooding including water height, depth and volume, and
  • Deliver data to end users via the internet.

Further work would need to be conducted to establish this service and set out its business model. Operational issues would need to be considered as part of this such as how to establish retainer arrangements after the service has been setup, and how to manage the service given the infrequency of flood events.