The European Space Agency (ESA) had unveiled a satellite monitoring platform to observe the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
In a press release issued on June 5, 2020, ESA discussed the launch of Rapid Action Coronavirus Earth observation (RACE). It is a platform that shares a lot of data (public and private) that concern, among other things, the quality of water and air, as well as industrial and maritime activities. We can also cite agricultural production, construction, road traffic, etc.
For Josef Aschbacher, ESA manager, RACE showed crucial examples of the socio-economic and environmental application of Earth observation.
For example, regarding air quality, the RACE platform provides access to various cards. Some relate to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions since the start of the pandemic in major cities and regions of the world. However, these data come from the Sentinel 5p satellite of the Copernicus program. In February 2020, NASA previously published such maps to provide evidence of better air quality in China during containment.
RACE also shows how satellite data and artificial intelligence can work together to bring economic clarity. Several examples were given, namely the production volumes of a German car manufacturer as well as air traffic at Barcelona airport (Spain). We can also cite the possibility of seeing the number of trains stopped at marshalling yards or the number of ships at anchor in ports.
Thus, although the observations mentioned above are already in force, the main interest is to group them in one and the same tool. The aim for ESA and the EU is to better understand the impact and consequences of major crises on our societies. In the case of Covid-19, it is a question of drawing a more precise socio-economic portrait of the evolution of the crisis.
For the moment, the RACE platform is incomplete. However, ESA said around 30 new public and private partners will soon be providing data. For observers, the RACE platform can also be a good way to find out what satellite data really allows.
Hugues Louissaint is an entrepreneur and writer, living in the US for over a decade. He has launched successful products such the Marabou Coffee brand, which has been highly successful in Florida. He has also been a writer for more than 5 years focusing on science, technology, and health. He writes part-time for the Scientific Origin and provides valuable input on a wide range of subjects.