Earth Observation Project

Paul Wheelhouse (Minister of Business Innovation and Energy) spoke recently at the Data.Space Conference in Glasgow. He mentioned the exciting work that Scottish Government, SEPA and SNH are carrying out using Earth Observation data. Here’s a brief summary of what the project means and the benefits it could deliver.

UAV image showing peat bunding at Carsegowan Moss, Galloway. ©SNH

UAV image showing peat bunding at Carsegowan Moss, Galloway. ©SNH

What is Earth Observation?

Earth Observation comes from three types of platforms – satellites, manned aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones).

There is currently an explosion in the availability of data from satellites and huge potential from UAVs.  Although SNH already makes very good use of its aerial photography which is available to SNH staff via our geo.View software, there is a great opportunity to use these additional data sources across a whole range of SNH business interests for the benefit of Scotland’s people and habitats.  

One example of where new data sources gleaned from Earth Observation offer huge potential is in the upcoming review of our Site Condition Monitoring process. Another area where the impact of this emerging technology is eagerly anticipated is in helping to monitor peatland habitat condition in order to contribute to site management, assessment of restoration progress and, in particular, to carbon accounting.

Partnership working

Funding for the peatland project was secured through the Scottish Government Contract Research Fund.  SNH have played an active role in the Scottish Government Remote Sensing Working Group and this project is part of a wider package to kick start four Earth Observation projects in Scotland.  The peatland project is being managed by Joint Nature Conservation Committee and is co-funded by the Defra Earth Observation Centre of Excellence.

At the conference in Glasgow Mr. Wheelhouse noted that “The Scottish Government is collaborating with Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to deliver a number of projects to build on our understanding of remote sensing data.

“One of these projects assesses current measures for addressing rural diffuse pollution, which will ensure that Scotland’s water environment is protected and improved in a way that balances costs and benefits.  A second project involves developing an understanding of the role remote sensing can play in assessing the condition of peatland habitats.  This is obviously a key concern for the Scottish Government as this will inform greenhouse gas assessments and accounting.”


False-colour infrared image of Inverness and surroundings from Sentinel 2 satellite. © SNH

Remote sensing will clearly allow organisations to collect and analyse more data about the earth’s surface without actually ‘being there’. Satellites have enormous potential in this area of work and the new European Sentinel Satellites will play a major role in the information we gather in the coming years.

Exciting times indeed.

Watch this space: You can keep up to date with developments in this area of work by following our recently launched GIS twitter page .

See the BBC news website for a short piece about the recent SNH trial of new stereo colour near-infrared aerial imagery to map Glenfeshie.







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