Convincing policy makers to make increased and more effective use of space-based Earth observation data and products requires robust benefit and cost assessments that compare Earth observation solutions to existing frameworks. A clear understanding of the value chain and actors is critical. Quantitatively assessing the benefits of space-based Earth observation is challenging because different multidiscipline approaches are needed for each case.
Several other issues also have to be addressed in order to motivate policy makers to invest in space-based Earth observation: space asset continuity, data and product accessibility, reliability, performance, and affordability are all relevant concerns.
Facilitating access to space Earth observation data is a key issue. Efforts are ongoing to facilitate access to scientific data hubs, e.g., ForM@Ter,Footnote 2 AERIS (collating Ether and ICARE),Footnote 3 and Aviso.Footnote 4 Copernicus Sentinel data and processing facilities are also made accessible via Plateforme d’Exploitation des Produits Sentinel (PEPS).Footnote 5 SPOT World Heritage data are made accessible through Theia.Footnote 6
Convinced that space Earth observation could be a promising tool for the implementation and control of public policies, the French Ministry of Environment (MEDDE) and Ministry of Overseas Territories (DGOM) have intensified their relationship with CNES to facilitate the integration of satellite Earth observation information and their decision-making systems.
2.1 MEDDE PlanSat: Satellite Earth Observation Contribution Toward Environmental Policy
The relationship between CNES and MEDDE was initiated at the beginning of the SPOT program to raise awareness about the potential of Earth observation data and to facilitate its integration into environmental policy. Thanks to SPOT’s multi-scale, long-term information series and high temporal resolution, rapid mapping, and change detection information can also be provided to risk management actors (civil security and health departments). Such value-added products can also be used to anticipate damages. It is expected that this Earth observation information can provide policy makers with major benefits.
Anticipating Copernicus data availability, MEDDE elaborated PlanSatFootnote 7 to identify space Earth observation contributions for directorates in charge of Prevention and Risks (DGPR), Energy and Climate (DGEC), Infrastructures-Transport and Maritime (DGITM), Town and Country Planning-Lodging and Nature (DGALN), Fishery and Aquaculture (DPMA) and Civil Aviation (DGAC). In 2011, MEDDE and CNES signed a master agreement to implement actions.
Quantifying the benefits of using space Earth observation within a domain is a significant undertaking. The method used by MEDDE and CNES to assess the benefits of the implementation and control of public policies was based on the concept of demonstration-comparison-feedback, with and without space Earth Observation assets. Assessments were undertaken for various monitoring and control issues in policy areas such as soil-use, infrastructure monitoring, coastal erosion, and natural hazard management.
Quantitative assessments of the benefit of space Earth observation necessitates the clarification of value chains in each domain and determination of the “value” of space-based Earth observation information within each segment of the chain. Input from space Earth observation experts, economists, social sciences experts, and policy makers is mandatory. CNES has also initiated discussions on space Earth observation value in the frame of a new group that gathers social sciences experts. Long-term sharing of common definitions and methods are conducted by CNES, MEDDE, and industrial partners within Le Comité de Concertation Etat Industrie sur l’Espace (COSPACE) in cooperation with Commissariat Général à l’Investissement (CGI)Footnote 8 and Direction Générale des Entreprises (DGE).Footnote 9
2.2 DGOM: Satellite Earth Observation for Overseas Challenges
For territories overseas, France must implement and control public policies in various domains, including health, transportation, town and country planning, agriculture, natural risks and crisis management, environmental and maritime surveillance, illegal fishing, pollution surveillance, and security.
Needs are specific, depending on the geographical situation and on the geo-political challenges of the overseas territories located in the tropics, Arctic, or Antarctic. The Direction Générale des Outre-Mer (DGOM) is in charge of coordinating the efforts of the different ministries involved in the implementation and control of public policies overseas.
The benefit assessment of space Earth observation was conducted within the frame of a demonstration-comparison-feedback process. The relationship between DGOM and CNES was initiated in response to illegal fishing in French Guyana. CNES facilitated access to expertise at Collecte Localization Satellites (CLS) and supported a feasibility study for which satellite optical and radar sensors were combined to provide maritime security authorities with adapted products for information and decision-making. In 2013, convinced that satellite Earth observation was a promising tool, DGOM and CNES decided to cooperate on a long-term basis and a master agreement was signed.
Sargassum algae surveillance is one of the concrete actions for which a benefit assessment is ongoing. MEDDE, DGOM, and the Ministry of Health collaborated to establish an appropriate response to the health, environmental, and economic problems caused by the decomposition of algae around the beaches of Martinique and Guadeloupe. In the frame of their master agreement, DGOM asked CNES to evaluate the possibility and cost of implementing a space-based Sargassum algae surveillance system. A feasibility study was initiated with the objective of evaluating the ability of satellite Earth observation to detect Sargassum algae and to evaluate the suitability of Sentinel tasking for an operational service. The CLS facilities VIGISATFootnote 10 and MobydriftFootnote 11 were run using free satellite Earth observation data from Landsat-8 (optical) and Sentinel-1 (radar). Discussions were initiated with Direction de l’Environnement et de l’Aménagement du Littoral (DEAL) Martinique and Guadeloupe to understand the operational constraints and information needs, in order to provide them with adapted information products.
Thanks to this study, the dynamic of the Sargassum algae drift along Martinique and Guadeloupe was characterized. A service based on a satellite system combining optical and radar sensors was dimensioned and the running costs estimated. An iterative dialog with future users is ongoing in order to optimize service quality and costs.
The Chamber of Commerce of Guadeloupe estimates fishery and tourism economic losses related to algal blooms to be about EUR 5 million (USD 8 million) in the first quarter of 2015 alone (Valo 2016). The health impacts of SO2 vapor coming from Sargassum algae decomposition is difficult to estimate, but will increase global damage and economic losses. These are key elements for assessing the benefits of using space-based Earth observation information in early warning information systems for Sargassum algae.