Eyes in the sky for the UK Environment Agency

Exploring the use of satellite imagery to maintain the highest levels of Environment Agency flood incident response despite the impact of COVID 19.

We are very excited about this Spottitt led, 6-month project (Jul – Dec 2020), funded by a £45,000 grant from Innovate UK via their call for, ‘Business-led innovation in response to global COVID 19 disruption’.

Project updates.....

Mid July 2020 onwards core Environment Agency project team able to order imagery and analytics via email request with a turn around time of days.

September saw the project team train 14 Environment Agency ABC’s and MAVO’s on ordering imagery and analytics.

Has been a dry autumn so far but successful imagery capture and analysis of flooding around Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake captured begin November.

Mid November web based ordering goes LIVE with full automation of order, analysis and delivery work flow planned for end Nov. Spottitt can now truly provide speedy, cost effective, global flood monitoring at 3m and 1m resolution.

Click on the image to the left to view a video of how easy it is for our Environment Agency project partners to order when faced with a flooding incident.

Problem – Climate change driving increased flooding, and COVID 19 driving Environment Agency staffing and workplace constraints.

Currently 2.4 Million UK properties are at risk from fluvial (river) and coastal flooding each year, while a further 2.8 million are susceptible to surface water – or pluvial – flooding, and these numbers are predicted to increase due to climate change. Across England flood incident response is led by the Environment Agency (EA) together with supporting agencies (Police, Fire, Ambulance etc.). While the work of the EA is benefitting from increased government investment in flood mitigation and response, the new global COVID 19 pandemic is raising new challenges. How can the EA maintain and improve it’s incident response when constrained by reduced staffing levels (staff sick at home or shielding), remote working and social distancing guidelines?

Solution – The use of satellite imagery and cloud computing to provide near real time flood analytics.

The project team proposes that a cloud based service which provides fully automated, low cost, near real time flood monitoring derived from commercial 1m and 3m resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite imagery is an accurate, affordable and responsive innovation that would significantly reduce manual in-field flood observation.

The bespoke use of satellite imagery to monitor flooding during large scale international disasters is not uncommon, but the standard use of this technology by government agencies, local authorities, NGO’s and landowners in the UK, (and beyond) to monitor flood incidents, small and large, is very uncommon. This is because high resolution SAR imagery has been too expensive; image capture not responsive enough; and the analysis of the imagery expensive and slow. Spottitt has experience in the delivery of SAR flood extent analytics and has already conducted positive development around the automation of the analysis workflows. Spottitt has selected ICEYE, a ‘New Space’ SAR company as its SAR satellite imagery provider.

Spottitt SAR flood monitoring of Hurricane Dorian Sept 2019

Project Objectives - The key innovation goals of the 6 month project are…..


  • That the entire workflow from image capture request to flood analysis delivery can be run in the cloud fully automatically in less than 24 hours. This is critical to ensure that the service developed provides timely data during flood incidents, and, can be delivered at scale with an attractive price point.

  • That the flood monitoring analytics provided are accurate, fit for purpose and proven to reduce the need for flood data gathered by EA flood observers in the field by 50%.

Spottitt flood footprint analysis derived from ICEYE 3m resolution SAR imagery taken 25 Feb 2020 superimposed on a Google basemap.

Who is involved?

The Environment Agency, in particular the Devon South flood operations teams, mapping and visualization offers, and national geomatics team (client and end users); Spottitt (service provider); ICEYE (SAR satellite imagery provider). Other relevant clients and end users involved include Devon and Somerset Fire Service, local authorities and NGO’s.

To find out more contact:

Lucy Kennedy, Spottitt CEO. lucy.kennedy@spottitt.com +44 7725944643

Adrian Bus, Environment Agency DCIS Field Team Leader for Devon South Team. adrian.buss@environment-agency.gov.uk +44 7584 342508

Melanie Clift, ICEYE, UK Account Director. melanie.clift@iceye.fi +44 7843 975719