From agriculture and energy, to finance and insurance, breakthroughs in Earth observation capabilities are reshaping industries, and providing valuable insight into the effects of climate change. 

It’s been a big year for space missions and exploration, with ambitious rocket launches, new discoveries and tech innovations capturing imaginations all around the world. But one of the most exciting achievements propelling the UK’s space narrative in 2023 is the series of breakthroughs in Earth observation capabilities.

Space station
As of 2021, there were over 950 Earth observation satellites.

With major funding increases in UK space science, satellites equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and imaging technologies are providing unprecedented insights for our planet, shaping industries and serving as integral tools for our public services and in the fight against climate change. 

Satellite services funded by the UK Space Agency provide us with real-time data on deforestation, carbon emissions, biodiversity threats, and water pollution – as with Lake Windermere, where satellites have been used to monitor the concentration of chlorophyll and assess risk to human health.

Aerial view of Windermere in Cumbria in northwest England, UK.
Aerial view of Windermere in Cumbria in northwest England, UK.

In addition to climate change insight, the benefits of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) to the UK economy is huge – at an estimated £13.62 billion a year – with Earth observation tools and AI supported satellite tracking providing forecasts and models for sectors ranging from agriculture to insurance.

Here are just a few of the key ways satellites are shaping industries… 

The AgTech revolution

No longer are farmers bound to intuition or the hues of the night sky to anticipate changing weather patterns. Satellites are becoming indispensable tools for farmers, delivering real-time data that allows for precision agriculture in both livestock and crop production. Precision farming allows farmers to optimise crop management, in terms of pest control and fertilisation, and monitor soil health to plan irrigation and more accurately predict yields. By precisely analysing data on soil moisture, nutrient levels, and weather patterns, farmers can tailor their resource allocation to specific areas of their fields.

Disaster monitoring and risk assessment

Insurance companies are also benefiting from our satellites in space. From assessing property conditions to evaluating environmental factors, satellite data offers insurers a unique perspective for risk assessment and underwriting, to enhance the accuracy of underwriting processes so they can mitigate risks more effectively.

Whether it’s floods, wildfires, or other catastrophes, satellites play a pivotal role in monitoring natural disasters and their aftermath, providing insurers with a fast, accurate understanding of the situation, and allowing for quicker response times – and ultimately improved customer service.

Watch ITN Business' new 'Space: Advancing the Future' programme.
Watch ITN Business’ new ‘Space: Advancing the Future‘ programme hosted by Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Finance resilience

In the finance sector, satellites are contributing to the resilience of supply chains. Our space sentinels are fundamental in tracking shipping routes, assessing warehouse conditions, and providing data on construction projects and energy production; all crucial information for insurers and financiers, allowing them to evaluate and mitigate risks associated with global trade and logistics.

Satellites for safe financial transactions is another area that has expanded, with an increased use in business operations. As satellites communicate through highly secure channels and sophisticated encryption methods, employing satellite comms makes transactions resistant to hacking, thereby guaranteeing security.

Furthermore, for some investors, the lack of reliable and scalable data in certain aspects of ESG assessments are viewed as a hurdle to the growth of sustainable investments. The development of evidence-based, satellite-powered indicators of environmental impact can bolster confidence and facilitate investments in line with climate goals.

Driving innovation

Data gleaned from advanced satellites is a hugely valuable commodity, driving innovation across multiple sectors. Businesses, policymakers, and researchers are leveraging satellite insights to make informed decisions, spurring economic development and bolstering the UK’s competitive edge on the global stage.

Learn more from our new space programme, ‘Space: Advancing the Future‘, launching this week at the UK Space Conference in Belfast (21 to 23 November).