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

Case Study: Telespazio – National Flood Warning & Mitigation Service

General Information

  • Provider: Telespazio VEGA and Ambiental
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO) Satellite Navigation
  • Thematic area: Natural Hazards
  • End user(s): Environment Agency, Cabinet Office, Local Authorities , Emergency Responders
  • Website: www.telespazio-vega.com


  • 2017

This project is a Phase 2 follow on project from Telespazio’s Phase 1 project and Ambiental’s Phase 1 project.

The Flood Warning & Mitigation Service developed by Telespazio VEGA UK Ltd and Ambiental is a fully scalable, satellite imagery based flood management and mitigation service. It augments current national procedures and capabilities provided by the Meteorological Office, Environment Agency (via the Flood Forecasting Centre), the Cabinet Office (COBR) and its network of Local Resilience Forums.  The Flood Warning & Mitigation Service meets specific challenges articulated by these end user groups by exploiting current HMG assets and capabilities as well as improving known limitations of existing technologies, such as real-time urban flood mapping and developing new innovation based techniques and procedures

The project combines satellite SAR observed flood extents with sophisticated hydrological flow modelling across complex urban regions and extensive rural expanses to produce delineated flood extent mapping. The objective is to achieve this twice daily within 4 hours of imagery acquisition to provide risk mapping that is reactive (low latency), current (regular refresh) and accurate (comprehensive and representative). This service will for the first time provide near real time flood forecast updates enabling higher accuracy flood extents during incidents, which is envisaged to provide a new valuable capability for responders. To further improve responsiveness, the service introduces a web mapping service that simultaneously accesses multiple sources of data to create a richer situational awareness picture of a given flood event. The service is hence designed to consume crowd sourced data and drone-derived imagery, enabling real-time in situ visualisation of on-going flood events at both local and national scales.

Precise real-time modelling of destructive UK flood events using satellite derived flood maps will provide quantifiable loss information for the (re-) insurance market and critical national infrastructure owners in energy, utility and transport sectors far more efficiently and rapidly than is currently possible. The anticipated benefit is that this will decrease post-flood recovery periods, and improve vital preparedness planning and deployment of mitigation measures. 

Satellite Enabled Solution: 

The developed flood warning system uses multiple forecasting feeds and a deterministic matrix prioritising regions of the UK through their vulnerability to flooding and economic value to guide the tasking of commercial satellite data, optimizing the coverage over an area of interest to increase cost effectiveness and area affected by flooding.  

Integrating data from COSMO-SkyMed and Sentinel-1 SAR satellites provides greater efficiently in terms of costs and area covered, enabling accurate wide-area and urban mapping on a national scale with a high temporal resolution.

Highly responsive monitoring of flood risk areas is achieved through an innovative procedural improvement called SmartTasking that tasks commercial SAR satellites to acquire at near peak flow and producing current mapping for COBR and EA stakeholders within  1 to 2 hours using semi-automated processing of incoming satellite imagery and repeatable every 12 hours.

Dissemination of flood event the data will be published on a secure web mapping for first responder communities and official government stakeholders including but not limited to COBR, Defra, EA, SEPA, NRW and Local Resilience Forum via Gold Command. Future uses for the data would include flood defence planners, policy makers and academia. In terms of flooding, the potential effects of climate change are predicted to cause greater frequency and magnitude of flood events, in light of this it is becoming essential to develop our understanding and readiness for future flood events with improved modelling for flood defence and response.

Costs and Benefits:

  • Increased accuracy and response time of the Copernicus EMS service
  • Improved efficiency allocating on ground resources during a flood crisis.
  • Faster acquisition of flood extent data by insurers would result in reduced times taken to process claims and reconstruction of damaged residential/ industrial properties.
  • The dual use of medium-resolution Sentinel-1 and high-resolution COSMO-SkyMed data reduced the need of expansive mapping using commercial satellite data across rural areas and instead targets high-resolution data at urban regions.
  • The smart tasking of satellite imagery reduced the data/ cost required to respond to a flood event and the duration taken to respond to a flood alert.
  • The ability to map a flood as it occurs would be invaluable in terms of mitigating potentially disastrous effects of flooding and modelling the dynamics of flood water for the preparedness of inevitable future events. 

Lessons Learned:

  • By combing multiple forecasting and spatial data resources it is possible to inevitably solve many issues surrounding the accuracy and methods of exploiting public and commercial satellite data.
  • The project has demonstrated the capabilities of commercial satellite data through the efficient planning of data collection.
  • The possibilities of automating the analysis of SAR data to meet the requirements of accurate, real-time mapping in response to natural hazards have been proven.  

Next Steps:

Integration of new methodologies:

  • Increasing the accuracy of flood modelling by integrating in-situ flood extent data within machine learning algorithms.
  • Continuous development of a dynamic web mapping service
  • Mapping of flood related geomorphological changes along river course.

The web mapping service and data portal would be available to first responder communities and governing bodies.
Integration of more commercial satellites:

  • TerraSAR-X

Export potential:

  • US
  • Copernicus EMS intergration
  • Malaysia 

Click on the links to view the presentation and video from Phase 1 of the Telespazio’s project, and on the following links for Ambiental’s project presentation and video.