The ESA Heritage Missions Virtual Lab launches on EarthConsole®

A virtual space offering customized data processing services to harness the invaluable legacy left by the Heritage Missions, all accessible with a single sign-on: this is the ESA Heritage Missions Virtual Lab which has been officially launched today on the EarthConsole® platform powered by Progressive Systems.

The Heritage Missions consist of over 45 non-operational earth observation missions, including cornerstone ESA missions such as the European Remote Sensing satellites, ERS-1 and ERS-2, and ENVISAT. These missions acquired data from various optical, radar, and atmospheric instruments for over 40 years.

The preservation of data coming from these missions is of key importance for the ongoing environmental research on our planet. When combined with data from new satellites, Heritage Missions data provides a unique opportunity to look back in time and build long-term data series on a diverse range of applications such as climate change, sea levels, surface temperatures, melting ice, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, atmospheric composition, deforestation, urban mapping and much more.

The Lab has been established with exactly this mission in mind: to assist research centers and universities in gaining a deeper understanding of the evolution of Earth dynamics over time, by leveraging Heritage Missions data and related processors.

Our goal with EarthConsole® has always been to make it easier for users to access and utilize earth observation data. As we continue to expand and improve the platform, we remain committed to this objective. The new Heritage Missions Virtual Lab on EarthConsole® maintains the unique features of the platform, including the ability to co-locate data and the processing capacity. This reduces the impact on data transfer, and enables the completion of large-scale processing campaigns within the project’s specified time frame.

In addition, by entrusting the management of processing campaigns and IT infrastructure to our team of experts, researchers can focus entirely on their research goals without worrying about the technical activities.

We want to keep on providing researchers and scientists with the necessary support to achieve their research objectives on time and with minimal distractions.

Giancarlo Rivolta,
CEO at Progressive Systems

The Lab offers researchers and scientists a range of possibilities to process and analyze Heritage Missions data.

One of its key features is the Small Baseline Subset (SBAS) processor, provided by IREA, a scientific and technological research institute belonging to the largest Italian research institution, the National Research Council (CNR). The service generates soil deformation maps and time series from ERS and ENVISAT data. With this processor, users can choose to perform bulk processing campaigns (supervised by EarthConsole® experts) or on-demand processing tasks (independently managed by the user via the P-PRO ON DEMAND platform). Researchers can also receive expert support to integrate additional processors into the EarthConsole® high-performance computing environment.

The Lab also provides ready-to-use virtual machines for algorithm development, testing and post-processing analysis equipped with instant cloud data access, software for Heritage data analysis & visualization already installed and flexible computing resources and storage.

Last but not least with a view to supporting an open science approach, the Lab makes available a set of tools to network and share research results with colleagues, including a thematic forum, a repository of processed datasets, and a library with relevant publications and media for consultation.

If you plan to use the lab services for research, educational, or pre-commercial purposes, you may be eligible to submit a sponsorship request to the ESA Network of Resources. If your application will be successful, it would allow you to receive a voucher that may fully cover the costs of the services.

Interested researchers can register to the Lab by following the provided instructions to join and the forms available via the lab to request the services.

This is a project supported by the ESA Network of Resources initiative.

EarthConsole® selected as service provider for two OCRE funded research projects

EarthConsole® by Progressive Systems was chosen as the preferred service provider for two research projects awarded through the OCRE (Open Clouds for Research Environments) call for funding Earth Observation services. These projects required extensive processing campaigns for different objectives using processors from the SARvatore (SAR Versatile Altimetric TOolkit for Research & Exploitation) family of processors. These processors were integrated by Progressive Systems into the ESA Altimetry Virtual Lab on the EarthConsole® platform in 2021, following the previous ten-year experience as RSS G-POD operator at the European Space Agency.

With this long-term processing heritage, EarthConsole® was the clear choice for the research institutions leading the projects.

The supported projects

Project: CryoSSARinSAM+
Research Institution: Technical University of Denmark – DTU SPACE (Denmark)

The Polar regions are important to study for a number of reasons. In an era of climate change, melting ice is expected to accelerate sea level change. In the past, various research groups have processed the first 9 years (2010.07-2020) of Cryosat radar altimetry for the Polar Oceans independently, using EarthConsole® or using the G-POD On Demand platform computing services. To continue this vital timeseries up through 2023 and also extend the Polar regions coverage to all regions outside the 50 degree parallel, this project was established.

CryoSSARinSAM+ aims at developing a common processing chain configuration to produce a single, open-access CryoSat-2 altimetry mission dataset that can support radar altimetry research of the polar oceans (both for the northern and southern hemisphere).

This dataset will have a wide range of potential applications, such as studying sea level, circulation, and trends in ice-covered polar seas; improving algorithms to monitor coastal sea level; estimating the thickness of summer sea ice; measuring significant wave height in polar oceans; and enhancing measurements of winter sea ice thickness in the Arctic and Antarctic, among other.

We want this dataset to become a reference standard for the radar altimetry research community, playing a pivotal role in advancing our knowledge of the polar oceans and ice cover, and the impact of climate change on them. A number of research institutions have been onboard designing this study and will directly ingest these data in their ongoing research

Ole B. Andersen
Professor, Department of Space Research and Technology
Geodesy and Earth Observation

Project: Assessment of renewable wave energy resources in the coastal zone using high-resolution altimetry products
Research Institution: CENTEC (Centre for Marine Technology and Ocean Engineering), Instituto Superior Tecnico , (Associação do Instituto Superior Técnico para a Investigação e Desenvolvimento) – IST-ID, (Portugal)

The project’s primary objective is to evaluate the potential of wave renewable energy sources in the Atlantic Ocean, with a particular emphasis on the coastal region, where the energy can be efficiently harnessed. To achieve this objective, the project is processing the whole CryoSat, Sentinel-3A, and Sentinel-3B missions data over specific coastal zones and using an improved geophysical retrieval algorithm: SAMOSA+ (Dinardo et al. 2018, Dinardo 2020).

The datasets generated through this project are expected to have a multitude of applications, ranging from evaluating renewable energy sources to gaining a better understanding of the impact of waves on the rise of sea levels. We want this project to benefit the whole altimetry research community, this is why the findings will be shared as we complete the project

Sonia Ponce de Leon A.
Assistant Researcher
CENTEC-IST-University of Lisbon


Why EarthConsole®

EarthConsole® has been selected as the optimal service provider to perform the processing activities requested by the projects.

With the ESA Altimetry Virtual Lab (AVL) hosted on the platform, EarthConsole® provides the necessary services and solutions to cater to the specific needs of the altimetry research community.

The ESA Altimetry Virtual Lab is hosting SARvatore for CryoSat-2, SARINvatore for CryoSat-2, and SARvatore for Sentinel-3 processors, among others. These processors will be used to reprocess CryoSat-2 altimetry mission data (CryoSSARinSAM+) and Sentinel-3A & Sentinel-3B data (Assessment of renewable wave energy resources in the coastal zone using high-resolution altimetry products) on specific areas and periods of interests indicated by the research institutions.

EarthConsole® utilizes flexible computing resources such as Worker Nodes, CPU, and RAM, in combination with a quick access to data on a Copernicus DIAS infrastructure. This minimises the impact of data transfer on processing time, enabling scalable processing campaigns to be completed within the projects’ time constraints.

In addition, EarthConsole® experts will oversee all processing activities, freeing up researchers from the task of managing the processing campaign and IT infrastructure, allowing them to focus on their research goals.

In conclusion, EarthConsole® has once again demonstrated its commitment to providing innovative solutions that add value to altimetry research. With the needed processors, flexible computing resources, the quick access to the Copernicus datasets, and the right expertise, researchers can confidently pursue their research objectives, knowing that they have a reliable partner to support their efforts.


EarthConsole 2021-2022

One year of EarthConsole®

July marked EarthConsole®’s first year of operations. This infographic shows some figures on the projects we supported with Progressive Systems’ cloud-based platform for earth observation data processing.

One year of EarthConsole

Following in the footsteps of ESA RSS’s success Progressive Systems operated until June 2021, the first year confirmed EarthConsole® was able to respond to the needs of different research communities in all the phases of their research process. The platform has also proven to be an effective solution for educators and students. This is because EarthConsole® offers solutions ranging from algorithm development and testing to scalable massive processing campaigns, and all that’s in between. All these solutions are flexible, customizable, and scalable to meet the users’ requirements.

The user-centred evolution of our solutions is one of the founding principles of EarthConsole®. With the objective of responding to the emerging needs of our users’ community, the platform was enriched with virtual laboratories dedicated to specific communities of earth observers (see Virtual Labs). Ad hoc processing services are made available in a virtual space, through which it is also possible to network with colleagues and exchange information through forums, a repository of datasets and much more.

We remind you that if you are conducting research or have a pre-commercial or educational project, the ESA Network of Resources could grant you a voucher to access our services free of charge.

Join our community of 180+ registered users now, request a service here and we will support you all the way to submit a sponsorship application for your project to NoR.

AIPAS membership

Progressive Systems joins AIPAS

Progressive Systems is now a member of AIPAS – the Association of Italian Space Enterprises, a not-for-profit association that has been supporting and protecting the interests of Italian Space SMEs since 1998.

AIPAS Members operate in both the upstream and downstream parts of the space sector value chain. Their competences span over the major technology domains, including earth observation, navigation, telecommunications, space transportation, science and exploration, integrated applications, services and ground segment.

Since 2007, AIPAS also opened the participation of the association to large companies, becoming an example of good collaboration between SMEs and large companies to develop a favorable ecosystem for all companies in the sector, regardless of their size.

Progressive Systems joins a group of 57 Members for a total of more than 3.600 employees and an overall turnover of more than 310 million euro. AIPAS membership will help the company to work in coordination with the members to further contribute to the growth of the Italian space sector.

The exchange of information and the collaboration with the Association could also further support the development of Progressive Systems and its solutions for earth observation data processing.

EarthConsole® on the OCRE Earth Observation Catalogue for Research

EarthConsole®, powered by Progressive Systems, has been registered in the OCRE Earth Observation (EO) Catalogue for Research and its offering may now be selected by EO funding for research winners.

OCRE (Open Clouds for Research Environments) is a Horizon 2020 project funded by the European Union that aims to enable and facilitate research institutions to use commercial digital services in a safe and easy manner.

EO and cloud-based services offer the European research community a wealth of powerful tools, but for many researchers, these are currently out of reach, with suitable services difficult to find and select.

The OCRE project wants to address this need by making it easier to procure both Cloud and EO services. The EO Catalogue is a key result of such a project which aims to create a digital single marketplace for commercial EO and Cloud services for research in Europe.

The Earth Observation Catalogue is a useful tool for EO Funding for Research winners to find validated cloud and digital services which respond to the research and education communities’ requirements, saving institutions the time-consuming and complex process of doing this by themselves. For each of the EO Funding for Research winners, at least three of the EO companies in the OCRE EO Catalogue will be shortlisted to choose from. Then, based on the requirements and criteria of the research project and the response from these suppliers, a provider will be awarded, fulfilling the minimum requirements for a fair procurement.

Find EarthConsole® in the catalogue!

Progressive Systems launches EarthConsole™

The all-in-one-solution to make the most of Earth Observation Data

An all-in-one cloud-based platform to assist researchers, innovators and service providers in optimizing the way in which they exploit Earth Observation data to analyse and keep track of our changing planet.

This is EarthConsole™, the new platform of Progressive Systems bringing Earth Observation data access, algorithm development, integration and processing services, analysis and visualization tools, powerful computing resources and high-speed network connections, all in one place. A comprehensive service which builds on the consolidated experience of the Research and Service Support (RSS) service Progressive Systems has operated for more than a decade on behalf of ESA, and which has supported hundreds of EO data users all over the world.

EarthConsole™ offers three main solutions:

  • G-BOX: an environment enabling users to develop and test algorithms, providing a virtual machine on a cloud infrastructure with fast access to Earth Observation data, customizable and flexible computing resources which is accessible from any location, any device and at any time;
  • P-PRO: the parallel processing service, allowing to process huge volumes of data in a faster and efficient manner thanks to a reliable cloud-based technology able to optimise the computing resources ;
  • I-APP: the application integration service of EarthConsole™, providing expert support to prepare software for integration in the Parallel Processing environment for massive processing.

All EarthConsole™ solutions offer a high degree of flexibility as they are customizable to a diverse extent on users’ needs.

The “Bring User to Data” has been one of key success factors of RSS and it will be a key pillar of the EarthConsole™ platform as well. But our objective with EarthConsole™ is to take it a step further and implement a user-centred evolution process. Users are encouraged to share their feedback, inputs and requirements on the platform with the objective of integrating these emerging customers-generated ideas into future developments of EarthConsole ™ .

declared Giancarlo Rivolta, CEO at Progressive Systems.

EarthConsole™ services are also available via the Network of EO Resources, a new ESA initiative enabling EO data users to procure and compare cloud-based services. Users with a research, development or pre-commercial project may receive an ESA voucher to benefit from EarthConsole™ services free of charge or at very advantageous prices.

Visit for more information.

Earth Observation Data Analysis Lab

EODA Lab, 5th edition of the lab for aspiring data scientists concluded

The laboratory entirely dedicated to Earth Observation data analysis recorded growing participation for the 5th year in a row

In May, the University of Rome la Sapienza and the ESA RSS service operated by Progressive Systems concluded with success the 5th edition of the Earth Observation Data Analysis – EODA Lab with a registered participation of more than 40 students. The Lab is one of the activities envisaged by the Master Degree in Data Science of the University of Rome La Sapienza dedicated to providing a solid and modern preparation in data analysis, including acquisition, management, and statistical analysis. In this frame the RSS Team has been collaborating with the University of Rome La Sapienza since 2017 to deliver a laboratory completely dedicated to Earth Observation data and more specifically to the Copernicus Sentinel missions.

Between April and May three different sessions have been organized on Sentinel-1, 2 and 3 respectively. For each module, a lecture was held on the specific mission, with a focus on the sensors, characteristics, orbit, data typologies and their main applications. Each lecture was followed by a hands-on session, where students practiced what they learnt during the lectures through the support of video tutorials. Under the expert guidance of RSS/Progressive Systems professionals, students exercised on applications such as:

  • (S1) SAR Interferometry connected to the Amatrice Earthquake in Central Italy; ship detection in the Strait of Messina and flood detection in Mozambique;
  • (S2) derivation of water and vegetation indexes, water masks extraction; derivation of maximum chlorophyll index in coastal water and supervised and unsupervised classifications;
  • (S3) vegetation and wildfires monitoring during the 2019/2020 Australian fire season, and composite analysis of the Mediterranean Sea Surface using multiple variables.

The laboratory was held completely online throughout a combination of webinars and video tutorials in full compliance with COVID-19 safety measures.

“We are very happy to observe the increasing success of the MSc in Data Science and the related EODA Lab, confirming year after year. Our students particularly appreciate the innovative approach of the Master which combines a multi-disciplinary theoretical background with a laboratory activity. The hands-on approach and the collaboration with the ESA RSS service operated by Progressive Systems is one of the reasons for the growing participation from 5 to more than 40 students in just 5 years. The MSc in Data Science and the course on Earth Observation prepare our students to enter the world of work with the competences needed by the industry to manage big data and uncover important insights on how our planet works”

This is what commented Frank S. Marzano, Professor at the Department of Information Engineering and among the pioneers of the MSc in Data Science at the University of Rome La Sapienza.

The University of Rome La Sapienza confirmed the interest in holding the EODA Lab next year as well and is already planning to introduce an important new feature: an entire module on Sentinel-5p, to make the didactic offer even more complete.

For further information, you can visit the webpage of the course here.

Progressive meets Society – Interview with Stefano Lo Presti

Earth observation is a very powerful source of information […] We started to use it to support evaluation and decision-making processes in the public and private domains ranging from farming to golf and insurance sectors and we are continuing to use it successfully, developing new ideas and solutions every day.


Earth Observation data combined with weather, soil and agronomic data can be an advantage for farmers when it comes to monitor vegetation health. The use of a holistic approach integrating data of different nature and from different sources has been a key factor for Centrale Valutativa to develop an innovative tool, Tethys Smart Farming, aimed at better monitoring crops and supporting farmers’ decision-making. The tool brings direct economic benefits to farmers which can reduce management costs of crops while having a positive impact on the environment.

In this new interview for Progressive Meets Society, Stefano Lo Presti, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Centrale Valutativa, shared with us the experience of the startup with the exploitation of satellite data, how their combination with data from other sources is an advantage compared to more traditional monitoring systems of crops and why the collaboration with Earth Observation experts has been important to properly use satellite data.

Stefano, first of all, can you please introduce Centrale Valutativa to our readers, how did you come up with your business idea and the work you are doing to support evaluation and decision-making processes?

SLP: Centrale Valutativa was founded 5 years ago with the initial objective of offering services on the evaluation of public policies, especially in the agricultural field. That had been our work for the previous 20 years, during which we had used and developed new tools for evaluating EU policies in the agro-environmental field, including satellite imagery.

Whether we have to evaluate the effects of a policy or to understand a specific phenomenon, such as the water needs of a plant, it is necessary to have data and information that can describe it accurately. Earth observation is a very powerful source of information, even if it must be processed and, above all, interpreted in the right way. We started to use it to support evaluation and decision-making processes in the public and private domains ranging from farming to golf and insurance sectors, and we are continuing to use it successfully, developing new ideas and solutions every day.

For the evaluation of the Rural Development Programmes of the Common Agricultural Policy – CAP we are now studying how to assess the amount of the subsidies to be given to farmers who convert their farms to eco-sustainable practices such as organic farming, integrated farming, conservation agriculture, etc. This is done by calculating the yield differential that is obtained between the different cultivation techniques. We are also working on the calculation of the drought or hail damage basing on earth observation data in order to improve the accuracy of the public compensation given to the damaged farms.

Let’s take a closer look at the work you do with earth observation data. CENTRALE VALUTATIVA developed TETHYS SMART FARMING, a tool that thanks to the processing of satellite images is able to provide farmers with useful information for a more modern, efficient and sustainable management of their farms. Which are the main objectives of this service?

SLP: The main goal of Tethys Smart Farming is to provide a tool to support the farmer’s decision making. It consists in three services to the farmer:

Tethys crop monitor detects in advance the onset of stress conditions (phytophages, cryptogamic diseases, water shortage, nutritional deficiencies). The instrument allows to monitor the growth of the crop and to control its vegetative status.
Tethys water saver allows you to estimate the amount of water lost from the crops due to evaporation and transpiration and therefore the need for water replenishment useful to maintain the status of the crop itself. The system defines when, how much and where to irrigate.
Tethys yield estimator estimates crop yield, the system produces prescription maps useful to understand which are the most productive and which are the less productive areas of the field under study.

At the moment we are studying a service on variable rate fertilization, in order to optimize the use of fertilizers saving money and reducing water pollution.

From precision farming to smart farming: what sort of technologies and satellite data have you used for TETHYS SMART FARMING and how have you used them?

SLP: TETHYS SMART FARMING uses data of different nature and origin: weather data, soil and agronomic data and obviously earth observation data, which are integrated according to a holistic approach and processed through dynamic agronomic models. Depending on the service we use different data:

Tethys Crop Monitor uses vegetation indices such as NDVI, NDWI and biophysical indices such as LAI, fCOVER. Every time Sentinel 2 and Landsat 7 and 8 pass by, we produce maps and the variation of the index compared to the previous survey and we also produce graphs of their trend over time.

Tethys Water Saver is based on the dynamic mathematical model SEBAL (Surface Energy Balance Algorithm for Land), developed by Wageningen University in the Netherlands, systematizing meteorological and pedological satellite data. In this case we only use Landsat 7 and 8 as the algorithm provides for the use of the thermal sensor that Sentinel does not have.

Tethys Yield Estimator is based on the evapotranspiration of the crop obtained with the SEBAL model, the fPAR (a biophysical index) and other parameters characteristic of each crop.

The study we are conducting on fertilization optimization, which is still in the experimental phase, is based on prescription maps, biomass produced at the time of fertilization and fCOVER, a biophysical index that provides useful information on crop growth.

You mentioned that data of different nature were integrated according to a holistic approach. Why was the combination of satellite data with weather, soil and agronomic data an advantage compared to more traditional monitoring systems of crops health?

SLP: In the agricultural world the use of new technologies is still limited, the farmer is very bound to traditional tools and to his experience. Lately, however, things are slowly evolving as a function of the generational change we are witnessing and under the pressure of climate change. The latter are undermining some of the certainties of farmers. Only through tools such as Tethys which integrates Earth Observation data, farmers will be able to better and promptly understand what is happening to crops, and will be able to prevent abnormal situations related to climate change. In this sense, Tethys represents a tool for farmers to adapt to climate change.

Based on your experience, which have been the main benefits reported from farmers using TETHYS SMART FARMING?

SLP: Benefits are both economic and environmental.
From an economic point of view, farmers could lower the costs in monitoring crop health while increasing in yields. This means reduced time in the field to see how the crop is doing and reduced fertilizer and water use.
The environmental benefits are related to less water use and less energy expenditure to pump the water, resulting in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The lower use of fertilizers results in a lower risk of water pollution and reduces nitrous oxide emissions. Just consider that a greenhouse gas is 298 times more climate-changing than CO2.

Earlier in the interview, you said that Earth Observation data must be processed and, above all, interpreted in the right way. How did cooperation with experts in the Earth Observation sector facilitate the access to and exploitation of satellite data?

SLP: Centrale Valutativa has been incubated at ESA-BIC for five years and in this framework we also collaborated with the ESA Research and Service Support service operated by Progressive Systems. Although we are a multidisciplinary team composed by agronomists, GIS experts, economists and statisticians, we have had the opportunity to learn through training courses how to use satellite images, how to interpret the results they give and how to do business. There is still a long way to go, but we are on the right track.

A long way to go that offers a wealth of opportunities. By looking at the future, where do you see CENTRALE VALUTATIVA in 10 years from now? Are you planning to use earth observation data for other projects in the future?

SLP: Difficult question, clearly we hope that many farmers will use our services. I think that although it is something new and for many people still unknown, in a few years many farmers will be familiar with such tools and will use them more extensively, contributing to a more conscious and sustainable agriculture.
In the future, if ESA or NASA launch hyperspectral satellites, we will be able to work on particular plant diseases and identify weeds in order to target weed control and reduce the use of pesticides.

Stefano, thank you very much for your time and for sharing the experience of Centrale Valutativa with us. For a close, building on your experience, which piece of advice would you give to a young and innovative start up in 2021 that is taking the first steps in the Earth Observation sector and is willing to exploit satellite data for their business?

SLP: I would tell that Earth Observation is a new science that gives a lot of opportunities, don’t give up at the first difficulties: it is hard work but enjoyable and very satisfying.

To learn more about Stefano Lo Presti:

Stefano Lo Presti is currently co-founder and managing partner of Centrale Valutativa S.r.l, dealing with agricultural engineering since 1993. He has carried out for ten years’ research in food technology at the University of Tuscia and the University “La Sapienza” of Rome, and in 1998 he obtained a PhD in food biotechnology. He worked at Agriconsulting Company since 1997 where he was responsible and coordinator of the assessment of the environmental effects of rural development programs. He gained experience in the analysis of the environmental effects of agriculture; in particular, on the topics of: water quality, irrigation system, erosion and climate change mitigation and adaptation. He was in charge of water management at the level of “Consorzi di Bonifica”, and uses spatial analysis technologies based on Geographic Information System (GIS). He is currently project manager of Tethys Smart Farming.

Progressive meets Society – Interview with Andrea Lorenzoni

“The exploitation of Earth Observation satellites data, as EUMETSAT and Copernicus, has been fundamental for us to develop services able to provide updated weather conditions to pilots of ultralight, general aviation aircrafts and drones, but also to users in the field of alternative energy saving and of the so-called “green environment”. The support received from expert EO organizations for developing our services has been essential and it will still be in the near future”.


The need to receive information on weather forecast and various environmental conditions is growing, also due to low-altitude increasing pollution which impacts clouds typology and visibility. These parameters are fundamental above all for pilots of general aviation aircrafts needing to receive updated and reliable weather conditions during air navigation. Earth Observation data can play an important role to compute various weather conditions as cloud composition, thunderstorms, strikes, rain, winds and their combination with other technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence can also help advance processing and analysis of such data.

For this new issue of Progressive meets Society, we have interviewed Andrea Lorenzoni, CEO at SpazioFuturo an innovative start-up offering services for general aviation, space, defence and security. In a short period of time, SpazioFuturo has received appreciation and important recognitions for its services based on satellite data exploitation. Selected among the innovative start-ups to be incubated within the ESA Business Incubation Centre for the innovative approach and great commercial potential of its services, recently SpazioFuturo has been recognized for its EMMA system (European MicroMeteorology for Aircraft) with the Best Maker Award of the Lazio Region at the 2020 edition of the Maker Faire, one of the biggest showcases of innovation and creativity globally.

Andrea Lorenzoni told us more on the journey of SpazioFuturo since its foundation and how Earth Observation data gave and will give a strong push to SpazioFuturo applications and services.

SPAZIOFUTURO is an innovative start up designing breakthrough solutions in the field of aviation, space, security and defence. How did you come up with the idea for SPAZIOFUTURO and how has your journey been so far?

AL: SPAZIOFUTURO was founded in Rome in 2014 as an innovative start-up with the purpose of developing and producing technologically advanced systems for General Aviation, Space, Defence and Security. Our initial idea was to offer a weather service for flight plan and during navigation to Ultralight and General Aviation aircrafts, through a satellite TLC connection, which resulted in our first autonomous research project in the aerospace field GABBIANO. Later on it evolved into EMMA, a service able to provide pilots of Ultralight and General Aviation aircrafts with meteorological data.

Nowadays we mainly focus on research and experimentation for the design of hardware and software products, services and advanced systems in the aerospace and alternative energy sectors using mainly Earth Observation satellites.

An ambitious start-up with an innovative idea which also put the basis for other important services. Can you tell us more about EMMA and the services you provide?

AL: EMMA offers a first solution to European pilots continuously requesting availability of aviation weather forecast data for flight planning and actual weather conditions updating during navigation. The service is specifically fitted for Ultralight flights (high geographical resolution, weather aviation data at various altitudes, etc) through a new airborne satellite modem and antenna, both tailored for this service and METEOSAT data to compute clouds and thunderstorms at various altitudes. In the field of Aviation, we have also developed AvS-Net, a service for meteodata distribution to build- up a national network including secondary airports and certified airfields. We are also active in the environmental monitoring with Green Meteo, an environmental and climate service pointed to national geographical areas to support all initiatives in the fields of alternative energy utilization (solar, wind,etc.), pollution reduction, agriculture precision, energy and water saving. A new service dedicated to the Mediterranean marine area is also under development.

A variety of services for a wide range of users, more specifically which is the target audience of the EMMA System and how are they benefitting from such service?

AL: Aviation weather forecast for flight planning and real-time data updating during air navigation have been always perceived by pilots as an important requirement. Specifically, the meteodata during the aircrafts flight, including approaching and landing phases into airfield and airports, is a very critical parameter, mainly for the safety of VFR (Visual Flight Rules) certified pilots. So, the target audience is mainly composed by pilots of Ultralight, General Aviation Aircrafts, users like gliders, aerostats, parachuting fields, flight schools, aeroclubs and drones. In addition, the need to collect and provide information on the meteorological conditions and various environmental conditions is worldwide growing, also due to low-altitude increasing pollution which impacts clouds typology and visibility.

Speaking of satellite data exploitation, can you tell us more on how you used satellite and how they added value to SPAZIOFUTURO solutions?

AL: The utilization of Earth Observation satellites data, such as EUMETSAT and Copernicus, has been fundamental for us to develop algorithms to compute various weather conditions as cloud composition, thunderstorms, strikes, rain, winds, visibility at those low altitude where the Ultralight and General Aviation pilots usually fly.
Many algorithms already developed, are now becoming applicable to the detection of incoming fog banks, which impacts airport traffic and functionality reducing time spent in the airports, travel time for passengers and goods, landing and take-off time. Furthermore, the detection of volcanic ash, natural dust and smoke is an additional feature. The atmospheric environment and visibility data are certainly suitable for Civil Aviation Authorities, for Airport Operations Management, for Meteorological Agencies. Now we are developing innovative algorithms, using machine learning and artificial intelligence features, to support the incoming worldwide environmental strategy in the fields of alternative energy utilization (solar, wind,etc.), pollution reduction, agriculture precision, energy and water saving.

How cooperation with key players in the space sector facilitated the access to and exploitation of satellite data?

AL: In our project EMMA, the cooperation with the ESA Research and Service Support in Frascati operated by Progressive Systems has been crucial, mainly during the initial phases to receive support and gain confidence with the exploitation of METEOSAT and Copernicus satellite data. We so learned to use extensively the Sentinel parameters for the development of many algorithms as the geolocated total columns of ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and methane, tropospheric columns of ozone, vertical profiles of ozone, geolocated clouds and aerosol information. The opportunity to acquire the support of Institutional Organizations such as ESA, ASI and LAZIO INNOVA for developing our services has been fundamental and it will still be in the near future.

Are you planning to use Earth Observation data for other SPAZIOFUTURO projects in the future?

AL: Yes surely. The evolution of new EUMETSAT satellites and the incoming launch of Copernicus will give a strong push to our existing applications and services, but will also open up new opportunities for satellite-enabled EO applications.

SPAZIOFUTURO has been established in 2014 and has nowadays a multi-year experience in the space sector. For a close, which piece of advice would you give to a young and innovative start up in 2021 that is taking the first steps in the sector and is willing to exploit Earth Observation data for their business?

AL: For young and innovative start-ups the first step to be taken is to acquire knowledge and confidence with satellite Earth Observation signals and to familiarize with the capability of mapping all the information which can be available from satellites. Collaborating with expert partners in the Earth Observation field can be of great help to start understanding how this information coming from space can give an answer to some real global needs.

To learn more about Andrea Lorenzoni

CEO of SPAZIOFUTURO, an innovative start-up since 2014, former manager at the Italian Space Agency (1989-2012) and previously in the Italian Air Force as Technical Coordinator of SICRAL, the national telecommunication satellite for mobile military services. Selected in 1978 as astronaut (payload specialist) candidate for Space Shuttle European SpaceLab flight.

Project Manager of two main Italian space initiatives, Tethered Satellite System (1984-1996), developed as per the bilateral agreement between ASI and NASA and MPLM -MultiPurpose Logistic Module (1996-2012), the Italian Component of the International Space Station (ISS). He also acted as National Representative in various European and International Boards and as Professor of “Ingegneria del volo spaziale abitato” at Scuola di Ingegneria Aerospaziale- La Sapienza University-Rome.

Our 2020 in Review

2020 was an out-of-the ordinary year but, despite the unusual challenges, here at Progressive we were able to achieve important milestones made possible by the commitment and dedication of our Team and our Partners. Such projects have laid the foundations for exciting initiatives coming up in 2021, which we are looking forward to sharing soon.

These are the key highlights of our 2020:

January and February

We continued assisting the growing community of Earth Observation Altimetry data enthusiasts, in the frame of the ESA Research and Service Support – RSS, the ESA service we operate since 2006 dedicated to supporting the Earth Observation (EO) community in exploiting EO data.

We kicked-off 2020 by putting together several processing services for Sentinel-3 and CryoSat-2 developed over the years by different PIs, under a unified umbrella: the SARvatore Services (SAR Versatile Altimetric TOolkit for Research and Exploitation) family. This collection of services enabled more than 200 users to get Earth surface heights over ocean, inland water bodies, rivers or ice sheets.

Figure 1 Fully Focused, Delay-Doppler and Conventional SAR Altimetry acquisitions.

March and April

Together with our partners Solenix, Qualteh JR, Terrasigna and GISAT, we released an updated version of the ESA Copernicus Sentinel App, the gateway to knowing the Copernicus Sentinel satellites. The App enables users to track the Sentinel satellite in orbit, search for products in a specific point over the 3D globe, visualize the latest product acquired from the satellite and save the searches. The new version is enriched with the possibility to browse Sentinel-5P products.

Figure 2 Copernicus Sentinel App – Acquisition of products feature over a specific area of the 3D globe.

Additionally, during the same months, we furthered our work within the Sentinel-3 Mission Performance Centre by contributing to increase the level of quality and maturity of the new Copernicus S3 Fire Radiative Power (FRP) product derived from S3 Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR). We supported the development of a new algorithm for the validation of S3 FRP SLSTR with the objective to measure with higher accuracy the radiative power of land and ocean hotspots (wildfires, volcanoes, agricultural burning etc.) over an area size of 1 km2 on our planet.

May and June

We successfully run the 4th edition of the EODA (Earth Observation Data Analysis) Lab in the frame of the ESA Research and Service Support. Through the EODA Lab we opened a window on the sensors, characteristics, and main applications of the Copernicus Sentinel 1-2-3 missions to aspiring data scientists attending the EODA course taught by prof. Marzano within the Master Degree in Data Science of Sapienza University of Rome.

Figure 3 Postseismic ground displacement map following the Amatrice earthquake (Central Italy, 2016) estimated using SAR Differential Interferometry technique applied to Sentinel-1 SAR IW SLC data.
Figure 4 Mediterranean Sea Surface Temperature Composite. Contains Copernicus Sentinel-3 Data (2020).
Figure 5 Supervised classification over the area of Lake Vico with Sentinel-2 images.

Alongside our activities in the education field, the work we performed in the two following projects has been featured in two new publications.

Part of the work carried out in the frame of the ESA funded project AIDEO (AI and EO Data Innovative Methods for Monitoring West Nile Disease Spread in Italy) together with IZSAM, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell’Abruzzo e del Molise “Giuseppe Caporale, AImage Lab (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia) and ReMedia resulted in a research paper titled [Vincenzi, S., et al. 2020] “The color out of space: learning self-supervised representations for Earth Observation imagery” accepted at the 25th International Conference on PATTERN RECOGNITION (ICPR 2020). The publication provided new insights into the development of effective deep learning techniques for Remote Sensing, proposing for the first time a novel representation learning procedure on a colorization-based method which allows users to overcome the lack of large annotated datasets for satellite images.

The second one [Cigna, F., et al. 2020] “Supporting Recovery After 2016 Hurricane Matthew In Haiti With Big Sar Data Processing In The Geohazards Exploitation Platform (GEP)”, features a work led by the Italian Space Agency aimed at investigating the generation of experimental scientific products of change detection and ground deformation monitoring that Haitian end-users can exploit to support decision-making process and recovery progress after the Hurricane that hit Haiti back in 2016. More specifically, the project exploited two processing services available in the ESA’s Geohazards Exploitation Platform (GEP) that were integrated by us in the context of the RSS service support provisioning.

At the same time the RSS team collaborated with La Sapienza University of Rome in the research project SMIVIA – Snow-mantle Modeling, Inversion and Validation using multi-frequency multimission InSAR in central Apennine addressing snow-deposits monitoring using multi-frequency multi-mission InSAR in central Apennine, by supporting the research team with the automation of the InSAR processing chain and with elaborations and expert technical assistance for the use of the RSS CloudToolbox service.

July and August

The first of August marked an important milestone for the ESA Research and Service Support service which entered into an extension phase until Summer 2021. The tasks we have been in charge so far will remain unchanged during this extension phase. We will continue to be responsible for the service operation and for providing research support by facilitating Earth Observation data exploitation, the development of new algorithms and the generations of value-added processing results.

In these months, we also laid important groundwork for three new Earth Observation tools which we plan to deliver as operational services in 2021:

  • Integration of ACOLITE (Atmospheric Correction for Operational Land Imager) in the processing environment, allowing for a simple and fast processing of coastal and inland water applications;
  • Development of CoDeMinT (Coastline Detection and Monitoring Tool) extracting and analysing shorelines from Landsat and Sentinel-2 imagery;
  • the Cloudy Earth Observation Time Series Restoration Tool, a working implementation of the algorithm proposed in [Bertoluzza et al. 2019] to restore the missing pixels of multispectral imagery time series acquisitions covered by clouds.
Figure 6 Chl-a concentration (left) Suspended Particulate Matter – SPM (right) from a Sentinel-2 image over Venetian Lagoon processed by ACOLITE in G-POD.
Figure 7 Intersections between user-defined transects and detected shorelines from Sentinel-2 images. Contains Copernicus Data [2017, 2020]
Figure 8 Original Image (left); Original Image with masked clouds (centre); Reconstructed Image (right)

September and October

Our team participated in the digital edition of the ESA EO Phi-Week, the ESA event dedicated to the latest achievements in Earth Observation science, technology and applications. We showcased the tools, services and projects derived from some of our latest research and engineering activities:

In the same period, the ESA/ESRIN contract “Maintenance and Evolution of the Copernicus Apps for Mobile Devices” was successfully completed. The contract, started in 2017, has rebranded and upgraded the Copernicus Sentinel App which became one of the most successful ESA mobile apps as of today, with 16 different app versions delivered over the years. In parallel to the evolution of the Copernicus Sentinel App, two new prototypes were also developed within the contract: the Copernicus Eye and the Copernicus Dashboard. The former visualizes information on land, atmospheric and ocean variables taken by The Copernicus Services. The latter is a web-base version of Copernicus Sentinel App. We played an important role as Customer’s interface and in the software independent testing and validation activities to ensure a proper functioning of the apps. The maintenance of the current features of the Copernicus Sentinel App is guaranteed, therefore it is still possible to download the most recent app release on the App Store and Google Play. Its newest features allow users to track the different Copernicus Sentinels directly from their ground position, browse new products for Sentinel-3 and Sentinel-5P through the search feature and download the different Sentinel products on the computer with the Sentinel Download Manager.

November and December

Figure 9 Graphical Abstract of the solution/method adopted in [Candeloro, L., et al. 2020]

The results of our collaboration with IZSAM, AImage Lab and ReMedia within the AIDEO Project were presented in a final review meeting with ESA. Combining past West Nile Virus occurrences, Earth Observation data and Machine Learning algorithms, the project aimed at putting in place a model to predict areas at risk of West Nile Disease circulation two weeks in advance.
The results were promising and represented an important first step towards the development of an early warning system that could support public authorities in better targeting surveillance measures for the prevention of West Nile Disease. Our contribution was focused on the generation and provisioning of Analysis-Ready-Data tailored to the artificial intelligence requirements, which considerably facilitated EO data exploitation and value-added information retrieval.
A conclusive AIDEO paper [Candeloro, L., et al. 2020] “Predicting WNV Circulation in Italy Using Earth Observation Data and Extreme Gradient Boosting Model” was also published in the MDPI Remote Sensing journal and is available here.

In the same months, the first phase of the validation activities for the new S3 SLSTR FRP nighttime product has been successfully concluded in collaboration with the S3 SLSTR Mission Performance Centre experts, and its results have been included in an interactive Web Application. The project officially entered its second phase: the development of the daytime algorithm is currently ongoing, the validation algorithm is being revised and updated accordingly, and the web application is being upgraded.

In the meantime, the RSS altrimetry processing services offer continued to expand improving accuracy and spatial resolution. The SARvatore service in G-POD now offers the possibility to include in output an additional product obtained with ALES+ SAR retracker, a waveform retracker for open ocean and coastal zone SAR altimetry data. The family of SARvatore services was enriched with a Fully Focused SAR altimetry algorithm for CryoSat-2 (FFSAR, developed by Aresys), which allows for a consistent improvement of the along-track spatial resolution (from about 300 m to order of meters), and the Sentinel-6 High Resolution L1A Ground Processor Prototype (GPP) processor.

Figure 10 Comparison between S6 low resolution and high resolution acquisition modes.

Over the last year the entire Progressive Systems team joined forces to bring to light a new platform for the analysis of Earth Observation Data which will be released in 2021 and that will incorporate some of the tools and competencies we have developed in 2020. This is Earth Console, a platform bringing Earth Observation data, algorithm development, integration and processing services, analysis and visualization tools, powerful computing resources and high-speed network connections, all in one place. A comprehensive service characterized by a great degree of flexibility allowing its users to exploit satellite data at diverse extent depending on their needs, from developing their own algorithm, to accessing specific know-how to scale up their application to massive data processing or wide service exposure.

Stay tuned and we really look forward to an even more fruitful 2021!

The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency, the European Union or any other space agency or entity mentioned in the text.

Figure in the cover image:
– Reconstructed Image using the Cloudy EO Time Series Restoration Tool
– Suspended Particulate Matter – SPM (right) from a Sentinel-2 image over Venetian Lagoon processed by ACOLITE in G-POD.
– Shapefiles of the coastline for different acquisition times obtained with CoDeMinT.
– Path followed by 2016 Hurricane Matthew and detailed satellite view before it struck southwestern Haiti (credit NOAA/ NHC – NASA);
– Comparison between S6 low resolution and high resolution acquisition modes (RSS altimetry processing service)
Earth Console Monitoring Dashboard
– Tracking from Ground feature of the Copernicus Sentinel App