The range of applications for remote sensing is steadily increasing. Not only because there is a new, smarter way of interpreting existing data, but also because of the ever-growing flow of data reaching us from satellites. One example is the planned constellation of a dozen European Sentinel satellites that will orbit the earth in coming years. The commercial exploitation of this kind of consultable data is also a growth market for Dutch companies. To achieve this, however, the data must be accessible. This is being achieved with the support of the ESA project ‘Decision Support and Real Time EO Data Management’ (DREAM).

NLR was commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a prototype infrastructure within DREAM, enabling users to easily and efficiently find order and download existing and future earth-observation images from ESA satellites. Development began in 2011 and the software was first tested in 2014. Clients for such data include the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC). EMSA, for example, monitors illegal fishing and oil dumping at sea, while EUSC’s activities include supporting European Union peace missions in central Africa and anti-piracy surveillance around the Horn of Africa.

Applications for these data are, however, not limited to supporting governments or European institutions. With Dutch commercial activities in mind, NLR has developed a service enabling commercial enterprises to effectively utilise earth-observation data and to make the resulting information available to clients. Existing examples include BMT ARGOSS and HERMESS in the Geomatics Business Park near Marknesse, which supply meteorological and environmental data to the oil and off-shore industries. The range of agricultural applications for remote sensing is also increasing, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

It is crucial that the automation and standardisation processes – formatting, selecting, ordering and downloading – produce data that is ready to use. To this end, NLR teamed up with companies in the Geometrics Business Park to develop a Regional Reference Server (RSS), within which data is collected and presented to potential clients in a practical format.

The RSS is therefore the prelude to many far-reaching developments, in which vast amounts of data will not only be stored, but also processed in the cloud. This offers commercial enterprises the prospect of new, better and faster information based on earth-observation data.