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Space data as a game changer for the Sustainable Development Goals

Space Data is increasingly available at lower costs and with higher spatial and temporal resolutions. This is possible thanks to programs like the Sentinel constellation under the Copernicus program of the European Space Agency or NASA’s Landsat program. To take advantage of this growing resource (and to stay ahead of the competition), many companies are starting to evaluate space data as a meaningful input for their industries.

ESA Sentinel constellation

Innovative companies all around the world are already using space data as one of their main data sources for data analytics, like in commodity trading, reinsurance, agriculture or logistics. Space data not only has an impact across many different industries, but it can be a disruptive force in how we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as stated by the UN. Start-ups around the world are leading examples of how space data can help us reach the SDGs.

Lets see some examples:

In order to ensure food security and support small-scale rural producers, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) uses satellite imagery to analyze land use, land cover and how it changes over time.

Map created by https://www.gaf.de/ over the Aguie region in southern Niger shows lines (in yellow) indicating corridors of movement.

The use of this critical information helps in the identification of passages for livestock, water resources, pastures, villages and farmland. This data ensures access to this scarce resources for all herders and avoiding conflicts between farmers and herders.

The transition from fossil fuels to clean energy is in the agenda of every energy company, but making clean energy a more profitable source of energy than the classical polluting options would help to speed up this transition. Several companies have taken this challenge and are currently developing innovative solutions to optimize existing cleantech energy production assets:

Solar Power: DHV Technologies, a Spanish startup, has developed new solar panels for nano satellites and cubesats.

Wind Power: Twingtech generates energy from a multi-copter harnessing wind energy from a kite.

HydroPower: Ourselves at WeGaw, help hydropower companies with better forecasting water inflow data through snow monitoring. With this, we help making energy from hydropower more efficient and reduce water spill.

Snow data from DeFROST.io on the 23rd of February

There are lots of examples of startups improving transport, tracking, monitoring or even improving communications. Astrocast helps to connect IoT devices with a constellation of nano satellites allowing any device on Earth to be connected instantly anywhere.

From water kiosks and ground-water monitoring in remote villages in Africa to sensors monitoring water quality in rivers and streams, Astrocast can help to improve lives the world over, helping to connect them to a space borne IoT connectivity network.

Astrocast Nano Satellites

Spacetech companies can help in adapting to climate change by monitoring deserts, oceans, cryosphere or even landslides. This helps in assessing the current advancement of climate change and how to better react to it, or even assess the exposure to current climate change expositions through products, like Carbon Delta, a Swiss startup acquired by MSCI that helps investors understand their portfolio exposure to climate change. The company provides financial institutions–including investment managers, banks, asset owners and insurers –with the means to identify assets that may be at risk from the worst effects resulting from climate change.

Space data is going to be the key element in developing further innovative solutions to tackle the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and these innovations are going to be carried out by cutting-edge technology developed by spacetech startups. These startups have a high risk ratio, since they invest in new and therefore untested technology they develop over lengthy periods of time with no commercial income in return. In order to survive they need support from the startup ecosystem, investment funds and national space organizations.

In Switzerland, there are many organizations currently supporting these highly innovative companies like the Swiss Space Center, the Swiss Space Office, the ESA BIC Switzerland incubator and AP-SWISS. One outstanding initiative supporting us and other spacetech startups impacting the UN SDGs is called Space4Impact. Their initiative Space4SDGs is helping startups access financial tools at an early stage. Space4Impact was recently launched and will run its first event on the 25th of November. There, it will be connecting relevant actors in the spacetech industry contributing to reach the SDGs. We at WeGaw will be attending and are excited to be a part of this movement towards a more sustainable future.



Near-real-time snow monitoring from space

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Ion Padilla

CEO & Co-Founder @ WeGaw — exCERN, exHewlett-Packard, TEDx Speaker