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2Excel geo to apply remote sensing techniques to tree mapping and identification in urban and rural settings

NEWS: 2Excel geo signs up to SPRINT for second time to undertake an innovative remote sensing project

SPRINT funding will support collaboration with Earth Observation experts at The Open University

Northampton-based remote sensing technology provider, 2Excel geo has signed up to the national SPRINT business support programme, for the second time, to undertake an innovative remote sensing project. SPRINT will support 2Excel geo with funded access to expertise from The Open University (OU) to reliably and accurately identify the species, size and condition of trees in urban and rural settings from fine resolution, remotely-sensed imagery.

2Excel geo will collaborate with leading academics from The Open University to develop ground-validation datasets for the mapping, monitoring and species identification of trees in urban and non-urban environments from airborne platforms. This data will help local authorities to enhance the management of green infrastructure in urban environments, and enable woodland and land managers to improve woodland and forest health and productivity.

The study will use different scales of hyperspectral Earth Observation data such as that from a commercial airborne imaging spectrometer and from a cutting-edge drone-mounted non-imaging system. It will also incorporate the UK’s largest urban tree map, from the Treezilla citizen science platform, providing unprecedented ground-validation of tree species and location.

The project will be funded by a grant from the £4.8 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

This is 2Excel geo’s second SPRINT project, following its first successful collaboration with the University of Southampton on a project to remove the impact of cloud shadows from high resolution Earth Observation imagery.

Gary Llewellyn, Remote Sensing Consultant at 2Excel geo said: “Analysis of terrestrial vegetation is a key focus area for 2Excel geo and we’re looking to use our experience of looking at trees from the air to change the way that we look at trees in the future when appropriate satellite systems become available. The SPRINT project with The Open University will investigate stress and the effects of diseases on trees present in their natural habitat. The university’s expertise will enable us to better identify these trees using airborne, satellite and ground-level remote sensing data.

“There are exciting satellite platforms in the launch stage and we want to be ready to develop tools to source and validate the data that they capture. One of key things about Earth Observation systems is that we will get significantly more detail from the combined ground and airborne approaches, which is fundamental in helping to build our datasets. Nothing can compete with the expertise of the university’s dedicated academic unit so we’re confident that the SPRINT project will enhance our level of domain expertise and improve our data, procedures and software.”

Kadmiel Maseyk, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences at The Open University added: “The OU has a strong research capability in space technology and in particular, developments in Earth Observation. The complementary areas of ground- and space-level data coming together means that our analysis of this data can provide expert validation for key applications.

“This project with 2Excel geo is of great interest as with a strong eco-physiology background – including involvement in the Treezilla project to map and record Britain’s trees using citizen science – the consideration of the shift to urbanisation and the impact on maintaining a healthy, green infrastructure in urban environments is a vital area of research.”