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Evolution of Copernicus Land Services based on Sentinel data

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ECoLaSS (Evolution of Copernicus Land Services based on Sentinel data)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-12-31

The Horizon 2020 (H2020) project ECoLaSS (Evolution of Copernicus Land Services based on Sentinel data) was conducted from 2017–2019 and addressed the H2020 Work Programme 5.iii. Leadership in Enabling and Industrial technologies - Space, specifically the Topic EO-3-2016: Evolution of Copernicus services. ECoLaSS particularly addressed the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service (CLMS) evolution, developing and prototypically demonstrating selected innovative products and methods as candidates for future next-generation operational products of the pan-European and Global Land components.
For this purpose, ECoLaSS tested, demonstrated and assessed the operational readiness of several such candidate products over representative European and African demonstration sites. This comprised a benchmarking of the prototype products’ innovation potential and technical excellence, automation level, potential for roll-out to pan-European level and/or global scale, timeliness for operational implementation, political support, costs versus benefits, etc. Finally, ECoLaSS suggested some of these prototype products for implementation, providing full documentation and validation account, as well as full download functionality of all project results.
Technically, ECoLaSS made full use of high-volume processing of dense time series of High-Resolution (HR) Sentinel-2 optical and Sentinel-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data from the early days of their availability. Rapidly evolving scientific and technical developments (such as cloud-based time series processing, machine learning, Copernicus Data and Information Infrastructures – DIAS) have been anticipated and tested as part of the envisaged future operational service environment. Relevant user requirements have been continuously assessed and analysed in a close stakeholder interaction and consultation process, targeting a future pan-European roll-out of the investigated new CLMS products, and assessing the potential transferability to global applications.
The project’s ambition has been to directly support the key CLMS stakeholders in taking informed decisions on related future service procurements as (part of) the next generation of Copernicus Land services from 2020 onwards. ECoLaSS had been explicitly designed as a flanking activity to complement the “standard” CLMS development and maintenance operations that are regularly undertaken by the Copernicus Entrusted Entities (i.e. EEA and JRC), through pursuing dedicated, systematic research & development endeavors targeting a longer-term, state-of-the-art portfolio evolution, which would otherwise have been tricky to systematically investigate and demonstrate through the available means of said entities. Through this, ECoLaSS is contributing to the emergence of enhanced and accelerated future European environmental monitoring capacities, in support of various European and international environmental protection and biodiversity conservation policies.
During the 3 years of the ECoLaSS runtime, an intensive user and stakeholder consultation process was carried out, targeting pan-European decision makers and agencies, national Copernicus stakeholders, industry representatives, research and development and academia ... to collect all relevant user requirements regarding next-generation CLMS products and services.
This yielded a very valuable collection of key development directions, which have been taken up in the project as far as fitting to the CLMS core service scope and being technically feasible. Innovative Sentinel-based time series analysis and thematic classification methods were developed for new CLMS products with cutting-edge geospatial and IT technology, and were tested and prototypically demonstrated in several selected European and African demonstration sites. For this purpose, Sentinel-2 complemented by Sentinel-1 proved to provide a qualitatively and quantitatively sufficient data basis, therefore an initially planned potential additional integration of medium-resolution (MR) Sentinel-3 data was ultimately not required for gap-filling to complement the HR time series. Due to unsolved technical issues in Sentinel-3 data handling, substitute MR data such as PROBA-V, have been additionally investigated.
A subsequent rigorous benchmarking procedure allowed to objectively identify the most mature and “operation-ready” new CLMS prototype products to be finally suggested as candidates for operational implementation as part of an upcoming CLMS portfolio extension. This benchmarking assessed various technical, political and infrastructure related criteria, as well as timeliness of developments and cost-benefit considerations.
The ECoLaSS project has been a forerunner in demonstrating the feasibility and benefits of operational time series analysis based on Sentinel data, and has assessed and practically demonstrated a huge variety of innovative and cutting-edge technologies and new CLMS service evolution candidates, in close interaction and coordination with the relevant CLMS key stakeholders.
In this, the project has explicitly not targeted a commercial business model, but has strived to support primarily the CLMS Entrusted Entities (EEA and JRC) by dedicated research into the evolution of the CLMS portfolio, thus maximizing the Copernicus impact and outreach. Such evolution of the portfolio will open up multiple new opportunities in value-added and downstream services as well as allow to address various new user groups. It will further support an accelerated market development of European earth observation based services, in a variety of target markets beyond the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service.
Throughout the project’s runtime, all developments have been continuously communicated to a broad audience of users and stakeholders by various means, such as (scientific) conferences and workshops with public presentations, posters and flyers, multiple dedicated stakeholder meetings and exchanges with other research projects, social media, webinars, the project webpage, etc. Furthermore, all relevant project results such as user requirements assessment reports, methods compendia, prototype reports, an integration plan into the Copernicus service architecture, and all prototype datasets have ben continuously made available for download via the project’s webpage (www.ecolass.eu). All planned project activities have been successfully concluded by end-2019, in time. Dissemination of the result will however continue e.g. via further scientific publications, and the website will be kept operational until at least 2023.
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