Progressive meets Society – Interview with Fabio Valentini

“When managing territories, decisions related to diversified actions, including environmental ones, need often to be taken. Earth Observation data can play an important role in providing valuable information about a territory, both to plan and act promptly in case of emergencies”


Public authorities in charge of territorial administration have to deal with diverse challenges, including environment-related ones, and need very often to take actions in a short time frame. For an efficient management of natural resources, local authorities are increasingly recognizing the importance of satellite data to receive information over an area at risk, plan in advance mechanisms to contain that risk, or – in case of emergency – receive promptly information to put in place effective coordination actions in a short time frame.

For the third issue of Progressive meets Society, we interviewed Fabio Valentini, Provincial Councillor of the Province of Viterbo and Council Member of the City of Montalto di Castro, who told us which are the environmental challenges the Province is currently facing and why satellite data can play a role in overcoming them.

The Province of Viterbo is an area rich in natural resources. Can you tell us which are the environmental topics and challenges at the top of the agenda of local authorities and why?

As you have mentioned in your question, the territory of the Province of Viterbo is characterized by the presence of many natural, cultural and archaeological resources. As a matter of fact, from an environmental point of view, each area of the Province requires special attention and awareness, being it a vast territory characterized by diversified environments and landscapes. To understand the variety of the area, suffice it to say that the Province extends from the Tyrrhenian coast of the cities of Tarquinia and Montalto di Castro up to the Cimini hills, passing by the lakes of Bolsena and Vico and many other territories. Each area has its own problems and needs. Just to make a few examples: on the coast it is important to monitor the quality of water and coastal erosion, given the presence of rivers and the risk of floods which have become more and more frequent over the years. Or for examples in some areas, the presence of the Mediterranean scrubland and woods increases the risk of fires, above all during summer time. More recently, the notable presence of monocultures such as that of hazelnuts in the area of the Lake of Vico and the related use of fertilisers and pesticides, raised the issue of pollution in inland waters. And also, the presence of industrial plants such as those for the production of electricity, requires attention in terms of monitoring air quality.

How do satellite data come into the picture to support the management of such natural resources?

When managing territories, decisions related to diversified actions, including environmental ones, need often to be taken. In ordinary circumstances, these actions can be planned, but in extraordinary circumstances such as in the case of emergencies, planning is not possible. In both cases, it is useful to be aware of as much information as possible about the territory. Earth observation data can play an important role in providing that information, both to plan and promptly act in case of emergencies, and they can complement information gained with more “traditional” technologies.

In your opinion, which could be the main implications and benefits of a proper exploitation of satellite data for the citizenship?

I believe that in the field of natural disasters, such as floods or fires, it is important to know the characteristics of the territory in advance in order to estimate and simulate the possible effects of these events which are very often dangerous for the citizenship. This is important above all for local competent authorities to put in place preventive instruments to contain risk. To make an example, in the case of fires it could be useful to have risk maps in order to estimate the potential impact of such events on the territory and on the citizenship, in order to allow to put in place mechanisms aimed at containing the consequences of such events as much as possible. I think that would be useful for other sectors as well, for example in the urban planning, agriculture, or landscape protection sectors, with the objective of setting up effective administrative actions.

Last year in the framework of the ESA RSS Service, we at Progressive met with a delegation of representatives of local authorities from the Province led by you, for an introduction to the potential of Earth Observation and its several applications. How much was important that meeting with EO experts and the collaboration established to fully understand the advantages that satellite data can bring to the work of public managers?

First of all, I would like to thank you for hosting the event and for your professionalism. It was a pleasure to contribute to the realization of this meeting, which was surely important for us, administrators of different municipalities in the Province of Viterbo. The meeting has been useful to raise awareness on the potential of the exploitation of satellite data and to raise the interest towards this world, unknown for the majority of us, and its applications in local areas. Some of the administrators are currently considering some applications resulting from the exploitation of Earth Observation data.

For a close, if you could turn a wish into a reality straight away, for which purpose would you implement a satellite data application for the Province and why?

It is difficult to identify a specific application, especially in the light of the multiple needs of the territory and the high potential offered by the exploitation of satellite data. For sure, monitoring water quality and coast protection, are both topics that catch my attention.

To learn more about Fabio Valentini

Fabio Valentini, born in Orbetello in 1981, holds a Master’s degree in Law at the University of Rome La Sapienza. He has served as chief executive in a service company for diverse years until 2013. From 2014 to 2017 he worked in the staff of the City of Fiumicino. In 2018 he has been appointed Vice President of the Province of Viterbo, where he currently acts as Provincial Councillor. In the City of Montalto di Castro, he also acts as Council Member for Healthcare, Civil Protection, Smart City and Information Services.

The Earth Observation Data Analysis Lab continues to train the next generations of data scientists

32 brilliant students concluded with success the 4th edition of the EODA Lab last June, the course run by Progressive Systems in the frame of the ESA Research and Service Support

Large attendance was recorded to the 2020 edition of the Earth Observation Data Analysis – EODA Laboratory. The EODA course, taught by prof. Frank S. Marzano, is completely dedicated to Satellite Remote Sensing and EO applications and is held within the Master Degree in Data Science of Sapienza University of Rome. Training skilled professionals who can “mine and interpret the growing availability of complex data”: this is the objective of the Master Degree, which through the EODA Lab was able to open a window on Earth science analysis, offering its students knowledge and tools to effectively manage and interpret satellite data for several environmental and geoinformation applications.

Over three modules, Progressive Systems experts provided an overview on the sensors, characteristics, and main applications of the Copernicus Sentinel 1-2-3 missions, the EU’s fleet of satellites dedicated to the operational needs of the Copernicus Programme. Particular attention was devoted to the hands-on sessions on satellite data analysis and applications with the use of several open-source tools, among which Anaconda, Jupyter, and SNAP (Sentinel Application Platform, the ESA tool for Earth Observation processing and analysis). Students learnt the most important techniques to process data and derive products for information retrieval on atmosphere, land and water which can be transformed into useful knowledge for assessing natural hazards, managing natural resources, setting up early warning mechanisms for crisis management and much more. In full compliance with COVID-19 restriction measures, the lab was completely delivered online and material, including video-tutorials for the hands-on sessions, was prepared and provided to participants to allow for the highest qualitative training experience.

The lab, now in its fourth edition, has managed to attract a growing participation of students year after year, a clear sign that the data scientist is increasingly becoming a key figure for companies, public sector institutions, research and international organizations which work with Big Data.

Training young people interested in starting a career in the Earth Observation domain has always been considered strategic for Progressive Systems. Through the Earth Observation Data Analysis Lab and the long-lasting collaboration with the Department of Information Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunications (DIET) of Sapienza University of Rome enabled by Prof. Frank S. Marzano, Progressive Systems has been investing in this strand of activities to foster young people’s skills development, increase their job-readiness and help bridging the gap between University and Industry.

In pursuing this mission, Progressive Systems gives appointment to all aspiring data scientists at the next edition of the EODA Lab.