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Defra raises sights for satellite data



Department works on automated data cleaning system to improve scope for integration and re-use

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is aiming to make more use of satellite data by combining with that from other sources, notably to provide alerts on where trees have been cut down without permission.

The move has been outlined as one of those in the department’s Data Programme, a central element of which is to pull together the geographic data held by its different teams and agencies.

A Defra digital blogpost says it is making progress in using the satellite data with the launch of the Copernicus Satellite Sentinels over the past three years, and the development of automated mechanisms to clean the data.

This saves individual organisations the expensive task of cleaning it themselves and makes the data easier to access. The blog says this will “unleash a huge range of potential innovation across Defra”.

It cites the example of working with the Forestry Commission and Earth Observation Centre of Excellence to integrate data on the location of forests where logging has been licensed, along with the satellite data, to provide alerts almost in real time when trees have been illegally felled.

Similarly, there have already been steps by the Environment Agency to identify where bare earth occurs on sloping fields in an effort to reduce soil erosion and river pollution.

Spotting problems

“The goal is to use this sort of mechanism more broadly across Defra to spot a range of other environmental problems and issues,” the blog says.

Other elements of the Data Programme include consolidating its geospatial datasets into a single location for integration with other sources, and the development of the Flood Cube as a definitive source of data on flood risks.

Defra has been one of Whitehall’s leaders in a more effective exploitation of data. It invested considerable effort in the cause over the past two years, and become a leading organisation in the open data movement, having opened up more than 10,000 datasets in the 12 months to the end of last June – exceeding the 8,000 it set itself as a target.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0. Sentinel-2 images before and after processing to normalise the effects of atmospheric aberration.Image processed by Gwawr Jones, JNCC.


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