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TerraMotion to develop solution for monitoring land motion in peatland areas across the UK

NEWS: First project to be delivered in UK with non-SPRINT university partner

Will collaborate with University of Nottingham with funding from SPRINT programme

Nottingham-based TerraMotion, a specialist in geospatial, mapping and land motion solutions, has signed up to the national SPRINT business support programme. SPRINT funding will enable TerraMotion to collaborate with the University of Nottingham on the development of a unique technique to monitor land motion in rural areas. The solution will enhance the management, conservation and restoration of peatland across the UK.

Peatlands cover approximately 10 per cent of the land area in the UK with blanket bog and it has been estimated that up to 80 per cent of UK peatlands are degraded to some extent. The prioritisation of areas for restoration and conservation of peatlands has been identified as a key priority in the National Peatland Strategy. To achieve this, the first step is a nationwide characterisation of peatland condition and there is currently no cost-effective way of monitoring the state of large areas of peatlands or quantifying the response of peatland to management intervention.

The SPRINT project is the first in the UK to be delivered by a non-SPRINT partner university and will build on the University of Nottingham’s expertise in using interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data to provide a measure of the extent of peatland and its condition. Ground height is the key driver for the peatland condition monitoring and the project will validate the InSAR ground height data using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) data from a ground height testing facility.

The SPRINT project extends the preliminary work done in a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) soil security project. In 2018, researchers at the University of Nottingham also developed groundbreaking technology to create a new UK-wide ground motion map. Using thousands of satellite radar images, the technology was applied under license by TerraMotion to create a complete land motion map of the UK as a natural progression from the first country-wide map of ground motion in Scotland.

Andy Sowter, Chief Technical Officer at TerraMotion said: “Our focus is to develop a novel technique to monitor land motion, applying the technology to rural areas, in particular. Nobody has come up with a solution for fields and forests so with the IP already developed at the University of Nottingham, we started a company to exploit the technology.

“Lots of degraded peat gives off greenhouses gases so the restoration of peat is essential, but there is no real way of monitoring its success. When peat is degraded, it subsides, so we can use a technique to look at mapping the condition of peat across the landscape, using surveying and GNSS to evaluate the data.

“The funding from SPRINT will support our research with the University of Nottingham and the project will enable us to develop this technology into a commercial peat classification service. We can then work with a range of UK agencies and landowners, such as Scottish Natural Heritage, and Forestry and Land Scotland in Scotland,” continued Sowter.

David Large, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nottingham commented: “At a previous workshop in Scotland, we explored how useful this land monitoring technology could be but needed evidence to prove the theory. Consequently, we’ve been looking for an effective way of demonstrating the link between movement of surface land and peat condition. This is particularly challenging on the surface of soft, wet peatland.

“The University of Nottingham will add value to the SPRINT project by interpreting the data in a meaningful way by using GNSS, enabling TerraMotion to enhance the process, as well as understanding the outputs and what structures are required. One potential user of the new technology could be the Scottish Government which has pledged £250 million over the next 10 years to restore peatland in Scotland, preserving the country’s natural assets and helping it to become carbon neutral,” continued Large.

Ross Burgon, Head of the national SPRINT programme added: “SPRINT seeks to support the growth of innovative SMEs through the critical mass of space expertise within the SPRINT university network. Sometimes, as in this case, this is not possible. Therefore, I’m delighted that by reaching out to our extended network of space universities, we’ve been able to find the expertise that TerraMotion requires from the University of Nottingham and to fund this collaborative project.”

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.

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