Earth Observation Today: Fast Data From Space Unlocking New Business Opportunities And Supercharging Environmental Science

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read
Earth Observation Today: Fast Data From Space Unlocking New Business Opportunities And Supercharging Environmental Science

According to recent projections by the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), it is indicated that revenues for Earth Observation (EO) data and value-added services in the next ten years will accelerate from 3.4 billion to 6 billion Euros.

It has also been estimated that more than 100 Terabytes of remote sensing data is collected every day, marking a fast-growing market infrastructure propelled by increased access to open-source data as NASA and ESA have recently decided to make satellite data freely available.

On a societal level, EO has seamlessly woven into various national policies, aligning itself with the objectives of both the EU and the UN. There is a visible trajectory toward harmonising environmental and economic goals, with EO as a guiding force. Recent discussions at the European Space Conference highlighted the potential for Europe to leverage the capabilities of EO and the European Global Navigation Satellite System. The EU is considering creating an environment fostering collaborative innovation with small and medium enterprises in the space industry. To craft transformative solutions that address the current pressing challenges while contributing positively to societal well-being.

EO satellites have taken a significant role in modern life in many ways, with space-borne remote sensing becoming an important tool for the implementation of ‘green’ policy objectives, such as climate change monitoring, environmental protection, and the movement towards more sustainable and transparent business actions.

Bar chart showing Earth Observation revenues in billions of Euros, increasing from 3.4 billion to 6 billion Euros over the next ten years.
Source: EUSPA 2024

Interestingly, most of the technological advancements in EO satellites are concentrated on software rather than hardware. This change has been affected by the growing amount of open-space data. Moving this data between satellites and from space to Earth in a fast and secure manner requires sophisticated software qualities that enable seamless communications among these interconnected satellites. Additionally, analysing all this Big Data presents a significant challenge. Moreover, on-board artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning models are starting to play an important role in imaging processing and object detection capable of implementing this data across various industries and ensuring long-term data continuity.

Earth observation trends

In the 21st century, there have been diverse advancements in EO satellite design. Notably, these trends are aligned with the evolving payload needs of current missions and operational capabilities of launch vehicles. An article by ESA investigated the matter of satellite size in terms of payload. One of the trends is the development of smaller, cost-effective national satellites and satellite constellations. This trend has resulted in multiple announcements from countries like the UAE, India, Australia, and Brazil to enter the industry and launch and develop their own EO satellites. On the technical frontier, in addition to image and sensor qualities such as synthetic aperture radar sensing (SAR), speed is the key. Inter-satellite communications are advancing towards optical inter-satellite links (OISL). As the OISL technology develops, not only does it increase data transfer speeds, but it also enhances security and precision. Think of the small laser beams compared to the widely spread radio waves used today. To delve deeper into OISLs, our Chief Technical Officer, Ignacio Chechile, has provided comprehensive insights in an article which you can explore here.

With EO data now more open to use, the question is, how and where to implement this quickly accessible data?

Use cases across industries

Pie chart illustrating the distribution of Earth Observation revenues totalling 3.4 billion Euros across various sectors.
Source: EUSPA 2024

Supercharging Environmental Understanding & Corporate Responsibility

Satellites play an essential role in observing 31 of the 50 Essential Climate Variables globally, as recognised by the Global Climate Observing System. The UN emphasises detection of methane from space, as reducing global oil and gas methane emissions by 45% could yield as much climate benefit in the next two decades as closing 1,000 coal plants. In addition to addressing climate change, EO data is increasingly used to monitor and hold companies accountable for sustainability commitments, with Climate TRACE mapping over 80,000 emitting physical assets worldwide across various sectors using data from 300 satellites and over 11,000 sensors. This comprehensive approach involves ground truth datasets to train AI and machine learning algorithms for enhanced environmental monitoring.

Business and Finance

WWF, in collaboration with The World Bank and Global Canopy, released a white paper titled "Geospatial ESG," emphasising the real-time impact of EO data on tracking global supply chains in industries like fishing, mining, and agriculture. Today, many companies lack the expertise to effectively use EO data, necessitating the development of in-house capabilities or collaboration with external partners. It is suggested that vertical cooperation unlocks flexibility for companies. For instance, partnerships in the EO sector between data providers and cloud platforms, provide a win-win vertical model that helps companies differentiate and address financial risks.


EO facilitates precision agriculture through weather and climate forecasting, enhancing long-term planning for optimal planting and harvesting. Additionally, resource mapping provides valuable insights such as water demand estimations, crop inspection, and identification of pests and diseases. EO also aids in ecosystem management, monitoring environmental degradation, soil health assessment, and earning carbon credits through sustainable farming practices.


In the forestry sector, EO plays a crucial role in optimising forest locations, preventing illegal logging, and improving supply chain transparency. EO technologies contribute to measuring forest coverage, creating comprehensive forest inventories, and effectively managing forest reserves. Furthermore, EO enables continuous monitoring of land use changes, ensuring sustainable forestry practices and supporting conservation efforts.


EO data is playing a key role in the fight against illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is the third most lucrative natural resource crime globally. According to the Financial Transparency Coalition, the global economic impact of IUU fishing is staggering, with an estimated 21.5 billion Euros lost annually. Researchers stated in a new study by the journal Nature that automated algorithms that analyse SAR data, can aid governments in unprecedented tracking of illegal fishing activities. This real-time information allows for efficient resource allocation and prioritisation of enforcement in areas at the highest risk.


A recent report by Digital Earth Australia has shown that satellite communication through EO technology is transforming the mining industry. This technology facilitates various important tasks such as resource exploration, site mapping, environmental monitoring, safety monitoring, and production monitoring. Not only does this enhance operational efficiency, but it also promotes sustainable and responsible mining practices. EO technology can reduce risk and increase productivity.
Moreover, EO Data Science suggests that analytics on mining can further incorporate climate change, water monitoring, dust modelling, and ground disturbance. Additionally, EO technology aids in preventing illegal mining operations.  


In conclusion, the potential of EO data is on a path to transform various commercial and governmental sectors, evident in the projected revenue acceleration from 3.4 to 6 billion Euros by 2033. The outlined use cases across industries highlight how EO actively contributes to environmental sustainability and responsible business practices. Notably, the fight against IUU fishing and transformative solutions for global supply chain tracking showcase the positive impact of EO data on Earth's well-being and the global economy.

Illustration showcasing use cases of Earth Observation data, and how the data travels from satellite to server. Each use case is depicted with a brief description and corresponding visual representation, including applications such as mining, forestry, agriculture, disaster management, Internet of Things.

Amid these advancements, next-generation satellites play an elevating role. As highlighted at the outset, advancements in EO satellite technology primarily focus on software, aiming to address challenges such as satellite data latency, space traffic management, and secure data transfer. ReOrbit’s software-first approach ensures efficient, adaptable, and autonomous satellites, capable of continuous improvement to meet the demands of time-sensitive applications. This adaptability aligns with the growing demand for harnessing EO data for various purposes.



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