91. Copernicus - A Rising Opportunity for Geospatialists

91 Geobreadbox Sentinel House Header__.jpg

The real opportunity for forward thinking geospatialists is not in using GIS software to create maps for traditional customers under traditional contract arrangements.

In order to understand where the opportunity exists, you need to get familiar with a very special family called the Sentinels - a family of earth observation satellites which are changing how we view the world, how we overcome global challenges and how we make money.

91 Geobreadbox Sentinel House .jpg

The Sentinel family are a product of the Copernicus Project, (previously known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES)), which is the European Programme for the establishment of a European capacity for Earth Observation. The world's largest single programme of its kind is the result of decades of work by the European Space Agency (ESA) in collaboration with numerous other bodies (including the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), European Economic Area (EEA), Mercator Ocean, Frontex - European Border and Coast Guard Agency , European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen), European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)).

Although the Sentinel satellites have been in planning for many years, it is only since 2014 that they have started to become operational. Since then, four satellites have gone to work in order to fulfill the objectives of the Copernicus programme and between now and 2021 four more satellites are expected to be launched. Today, we are beginning to see the results of this system.



Data is collected using earth observation satellites and in situ sensors such as ground stations, airborne and sea-borne sensors in all weather conditions and at all times of the day. As an example, data received from the Sentinel satellite programme includes high-resolution optical images which can be used by land services for the purposes of monitoring and managing vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas.

91 Geobreadbox Sentinel House Caterpillar.jpg

A big emphasis of the programme is to help policy and decision-makers to better understand and prepare for the effects of climate change. Global atmospheric composition monitoring of both land and ocean environments will be of key importance in this regard and today the EU is beginning to requiring that member states implement reporting systems which will make use of this information.

91 Geobreadbox Sentinel House  Athmosphere.jpg

The Copernicus presents a big opportunity for geospatialists because the EU wants entrepreneurs to help justify the programmes by creating products and applications which utilize Sentinel data. In order to make this happen, the processed Copernicus data is made freely available to the public via a website which also includes a number of useful developer tools and resources. Solutions for the following fields are particularly relevant to the programme:

  • environment protection,
  • management of urban areas,
  • regional and local planning,
  • agriculture,
  • forestry,
  • fisheries,
  • health,
  • transport,
  • climate change,
  • sustainable development,
  • civil protection,
  • tourism.

The Sentinel family is one of those families that you just gotta love. If you are of the belief that the future is online, that anyone with an idea and energy can innovate, and that the true value of the geospatial industry is in the data then you will begin to see the Copernicus programme (and other open data programmes like it) for what it is:

An opportunity to reinvent what geospatial means in 2017.