New data project to help UAE protect environment, manage climate change

Ordnance Survey (OS) International, the global arm of the United Kingdom’s (UK) mapping agency, and space systems provider, Deimos Space UK, will work with Dubai's space centre to help the UAE improve its planning and managing of its natural resources and infrastructure.

OS International will help develop a single source for digital geospatial data for the UAE government departments to enable a variety of key policy initiatives. Advanced data analytics tools, to be developed by Deimos Space UK and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, MBRSC, will feature new geospatial data extracted from high-resolution satellite images.

The project will deliver a proof-of-concept prototype to create a vegetation index of the UAE and a palm tree-counting algorithm. These will help increase the level of awareness regarding the impact of urban development on the UAE’s environment. The information, extracted from satellite data, will study different aspects such as vegetation dynamics, plant phonological changes over time, biomass production, land cover changes, soil moisture, irrigation needs and effects of climate change.

A digital data model and a strategic roadmap for a common digital geospatial data platform will be deployed across the UAE government departments to improve their efficiency and provide the groundwork for future geospatial projects.

The UK Space Agency is funding the project in the UAE as part of a wider UK government’s initiative to encourage greater collaboration between the UK, the UAE and other Gulf states.

"The UAE has undergone rapid growth and in developing its geospatial capabilities, we are ultimately delivering the power of better decision-making. In Great Britain, we see how Ordnance Survey’s single source of accurate, rich data drives innovation and collaboration, providing the platform, locally and nationally, on which to plan, build and maintain. Great Britain and the UAE have a long-standing friendship, and it is an honour for us to share our experience and expertise with the UAE, its government, businesses and people," Andy Wilson, OS International’s Director of Business Development, said, while commenting on the development.

Peter Hedlund, Managing Director of OS International, said, "The conservation of natural resources is a global concern, and geospatial data often reveals the simplest answers to many of the world’s most complex questions. In the UAE, natural resources, rising population, high energy demands and climate change are very real challenges. The UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment requires this reliable, up-to-date geospatial information to support the development and implementation of plans to protect the environment and manage water resources."

Philip Davies, Managing Director of Deimos Space UK, said, "This project will give Deimos Space UK the additional capacity needed to build on its existing R&D relationship with MBRSC in Dubai and create a sustainable commercial relationship with the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi and other UAE government organisations. We believe that the lower cost and wider availability of Earth Observation (EO) data, together with new data analytics techniques, will enable many new applications in environmental monitoring and urban planning."

Adnan Mohammad Alrais, Manager, Business Development and External Relations at MBRSC, said, "We are delighted to continue our collaboration with Deimos Space UK and welcome the opportunity to work with OS International and colleagues across the UAE to make the best possible use of data from DubaiSat-2."

Philip Parham, British Ambassador to the UAE, said, "This forms part of the British government’s broader strategic commitment to strengthening partnerships with research bodies and higher education institutions in the Gulf. Britain leads the world in many areas of science and scientific research. We look forward to establishing more partnerships between the UK and the Gulf research institutions."

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