The Geospatial Commission pilot will see public sector bodies able to access and test high resolution Earth Observation (EO) data and services.

Earth Observation Pilot Launched: Putting the UK at the forefront of science and technology
  • The growing satellite market is generating a number of new sources of Earth Observation derived data that could help transform analysis in key policy areas, including land use, environmental monitoring and emergency response
  • The Geospatial Commission is running a commercial EO pilot to test ways that the public sector can efficiently access this critical innovative technology across society and public services
  • The EO pilot initiative will be delivered in partnership with Airbus Defence and Space and will run until the end of March 2024

The Geospatial Commission, part of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), has today launched a commercial Earth Observation (EO) pilot for a number of UK public sector bodies that will help to unlock the value of EO technology in priority policy areas, from emergency incident response to land use.

DSIT Minister, Viscount Camrose, announced the launch of the EO pilot initiative at a symposium event on Wednesday exploring innovative applications of EO data across the economy. The event was co-hosted by the Geospatial Commission, Office for National Statistics and Satellite Applications Catapult.

Viscount Camrose, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said:

This government is taking action to unlock the significant potential of fast-developing location technologies. The Earth Observation capability that is being piloted by the Geospatial Commission will test how we can drive innovation in the heart of government service delivery, from effective disaster response to enhancing the science behind our understanding of land use change.

Following a competitive tender process, the data and services for the EO pilot initiative will be delivered in partnership with the winning supplier, Airbus Defence and Space, to public sector bodies throughout the UK. Eligible UK public sector bodies will be able to access and test the data against a range of use cases for the 12 month pilot period.

Thalia Baldwin, Director, Geospatial Commission, said:

Our Earth Observation pilot is aiming to keep the UK in its high geospatial orbit, increasing public sector capability and the demand for market innovation through testing new applications of EO data and technologies.

Paul Russell, Head of Intelligence UK, Airbus, said:

We are delighted to be working with the Geospatial Commission on this initiative and we look forward to seeing how public sector bodies will work with our satellite data to support the delivery of critical public services.


Earth Observation (EO) is the collection, analysis and presentation of information about planet Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems via remote sensing technologies. Satellite EO refers to the use of a variety of satellite-based imaging equipment, including optical, radar, altimeter and atmospheric instruments, to collect information about the Earth.

The UK is a world leader in EO tools, technologies and data use. The uses span academic, institutional, public sector and commercial services.

The National Space Strategy states that: We will strive to remain at the forefront of EO technology and know-how.

DSIT works closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the UK Space Agency to consider how government can best meet the needs of the UK’s EO sector and deliver our National Space Strategy ambition to ensure that the UK stays at the forefront of EO technology and knowhow.

The Geospatial Commission is an expert committee responsible for setting the UK’s Geospatial Strategy, including coordinating public sector geospatial activity. The UK’s Geospatial Strategy committed the Geospatial Commission to explore the rationalisation of public sector procurement of EO data and services.

In 2022, the Geospatial Commission co-funded research with the Satellite Applications Catapult that evidenced increasing demand for EO data across 154 use cases from 125 organisations. Importantly it also identified key barriers to the public sector’s wider adoption of EO data, including varying levels of technical understanding and the challenges of keeping pace with the offerings from the developing EO market and of establishing a robust case for investment.

Through 2023/24 the Geospatial Commission will run a commercial EO pilot for up to 35 public sector bodies, as part of a wider programme building our understanding of the fast-evolving EO market and to test solutions that lower the barrier to entry of EO data for the public sector.

Published 28 April 2023