A milestone for Sentinel-2 (and an analysis of free data)

Geosys has been on an exciting journey with the European Space Agency (ESA) since the launch of Sentinel-2A in June of 2015. This was the first satellite to launch in the Sentinel-2 mission and by December of that same year, Geosys was one of the first companies to deliver maps from Sentinel-2A in its platform. Just a year ago, we helped celebrate the successful launch of Sentinel-2B and started utilizing its imagery as soon as it was available. Now, we celebrate another milestone of the mission with ESA announcing that the Sentinel-2 mission is performing global and systematic acquisitions with 5-day revisit.

We are big fans of the Sentinel-2 mission because it delivers high-quality imagery at 10-meter resolution and – thanks to the European taxpayers – the data is free.

But it’s not all sunshine. Literally. When the clouds roll in, data availability is compromised.

This issue is not unique to Sentinel-2 as clouds create issues for all satellites utilized for crops observation. However, the problem is exacerbated with public sources (such as Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8) that acquire data on a fixed schedule because there is no accounting for bad weather conditions. This is why most private sources are tasked – meaning they are scheduled to acquire data based on needs and local weather forecasts.

Geosys has been utilizing satellite data for more than 30 years, so we leverage our experience and statistics to make the best use of public and private data sources. Last year in the United States, an average of 40-percent of the cloud-free maps we delivered were acquired from tasked satellites. We find a lot of imperfections (i.e. clouds) in the data acquired from public sources, so a fair amount of it isn’t used.

 

So, it comes as no surprise that most companies utilize a second source for imagery, which can range from private satellites to planes to drones. But adding additional sources of data exponentially increases the workload. Not only do you have to process the data from the original source, but to compare data from one source to the next, it must be calibrated. The more data sources, the more complex the calibration process.

Geosys has built a source agnostic processing system which takes in data from any source and makes it comparable to other data despite time or source of acquisition. The value of this is illustrated in the erratic jumps in chart of the uncalibrated data below.

Our source agnostic processing system was built to support our virtual constellation. In addition to the public sources of data, we have contracts to utilize a variety of private sources. This flexibility allows us to build a data stream that best meets the needs of our various agribusiness customers across the globe.

We continue to celebrate the Sentinel-2 mission and will utilize all of the cloud-free data it has to offer – but it’s not enough to provide the level of service required to bring true value to many of our customer.

To learn more about the technology that powers our valuable tools or to discuss how we can customize a solution for your business, contact your local representative.

 

Hero photo credit: ESA/ATG medialab