Space Agency-backed project aims to use satellite data to protect utilities

MGISS project will use satellite data - image of a satellite orbiting the Earth
Geospatial technology specialist MGISS and two northern utility providers have launched a project to use satellite data to detect risks posed to utility services by new building developments.

The project is part-funded by the European Space Agency (ESA). It will use satellite data and services to automatically detect changes to the built environment within proximity of critical utilities.

Gas and water outages caused by developments are a growing problem, according to MGISS. The Interruption Prevention Alert Service (IPAS) – as the project is known – will offer a preventative solution.

According to the consortium, the challenges facing utilities providers face are also likely to intensify with the government’s anticipated easing of UK planning laws as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, along with proposed additional investment in infrastructure and housebuilding.

The €1m project is supported by €500,000 of match funding from the ESA. It will run for two years initially to test its technical and commercial viability, and to develop a go-to-market plan.

MGISS heads up the project in collaboration with data partner, Geospatial Insight, plus Northumbrian Water Group and Northern Gas Networks and the funding partners, the ESA and the UK Space Agency.

Eye in the sky solution

Clive Surman-Wells, innovation partnerships manager at Northumbrian Water Group, explained: “Building works on or near our strategic mains pose a very real threat to the resilience of water supply to our customers.

“It’s very challenging to detect and intervene early because our network covers such a huge geographical area. The IPAS project offers an ‘eye in the sky’ solution, leveraging satellite data and combining it with our own asset data records to proactively identify risks sooner.

“Our operations team at Essex and Suffolk Water will be working with MGISS and Geospatial Insight on the initial test area and we are planning to expand the trial across  all of our regions by 2024.”

Mike Cooper, innovation and strategy manager at MGISS, added: “We’ve been supporting our utility partners for several years, helping them to build richly attributed and accurate asset records.

“This solution will enable utilities providers to leverage investment in those data records, combining them with change-detection data from satellite services to enable them to avoid supply disruption via a preventative insight service”.

Michael Darracott, MD at MGISS, said: “We already have a significant amount of interest from operators within the water and gas sectors, and we envisage wider potential in other sectors of the UK and global economies.”

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