Satellites and the sea

08 June 2021
EU Space is powering solutions to protect and restore the oceans.
EU Space is powering solutions to protect and restore the oceans.

On World Ocean Day, which takes place every year on 8 June, people around the world celebrate our shared ocean and take action to protect and restore it for future generations. Today we take a look at how EU Space contributes to these efforts by providing data that improves our understanding of the ocean ecosystem and enables applications and services that help to minimise the impact of human activity on ocean health.

The 2020 EU Blue Economy Report tells us that a sustainable Blue Economy allows society to obtain value from the oceans and coastal regions, while respecting the long-term capacity of the oceans to regenerate and endure these activities. This sustainable approach is at the heart of the European Green Deal. However, implementation of the sustainable practices implicit in the Green Deal will require reliable, accurate and centralised data. This is where EU Space has an invaluable role to play.

EU’s eyes on the ocean

The Earth observation programme Copernicus supports EU policies and international commitments related to ocean governance. However, Copernicus is more than just a data provider. It also offers a large range of services that empower all users, from scientists and policy managers to private companies who want to drive the blue economy and scientific innovation.  

Watch this: Monitoring Ocean Currents

The mission of the Copernicus Marine Service is to monitor the oceans. The service provides 4D regular, authoritative, quality-assured information about the ocean. This information is available for free and is accessible from anywhere in the world, allowing us to know more about the past, current and future state of the Blue, White and Green ocean. This data can be used to create applications for both the public and private sectors. 


What’s more, EO data from Copernicus can be combined with highly accurate positioning and navigation information from Galileo and EGNOS to enable monitoring and tracking solutions and targeted action to tackle environmental and legal issues at sea – detecting and monitoring oil spills and the vessels involved.

GNSS and the oceans

In synergy with EO, and on its own, EGNSS (Galileo and EGNOS) has been enabling applications that address challenges in the marine environment. This time last year, we looked at specific projects that leverage space tech to monitor and protect the oceans. Since then, the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) has been tapping into the innovative spirit of Europe’s start-ups to deliver new space-based environmental solutions.

And this: EGNOS for Waterborne Transport

Through its various prizes, such as MyGalileoSolution, MyGalileoDrone and Farming by Satellite, EUSPA has been challenging young entrepreneurs and start-ups to deliver solutions to pressing societal challenges, and the ocean has benefited from this innovative drive. The first-prize winner in Track 1 (from idea to prototype) of this year’s MyGalileoSolution competition was VisionAnchor the world's first video anchor monitoring system for boats. By providing eyes on ships’ anchors around the clock, this solution helps to increase safety and reduce the damage caused by anchors to the marine environment. smartSAR, one of the MyGalileoDrone finalists, focused on the development of a drone-based solution to faster locate survivors in maritime disasters, while at the same time reducing the workload of search and rescue (SAR) ship crews.

While the ocean indirectly benefits from all space-based applications that increase the efficiency of agriculture, thanks to reduced run-off of pesticides and fertilizer, this year a winning project in the Farming by Satellite competition directly addressed the ocean environment. Third prize in the competition went to AI4OceanFarming, a solution that uses satellite data to identify ocean farming threats such as harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, and invasive species. 

Are you up for a Challenge?

The drive to leverage space to serve the environment does not stop there. The Space for our Planet Challenge is one of four challenges in this year’s Galileo Masters competition, targeting solutions that lead to more environmentally friendly living and decision-making, resulting in a healthier planet.

In this challenge, participants are encouraged to submit solutions using Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus as key enablers to support sustainable and smart mobility and the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy, contributing to Europe’s climate change agenda, protecting the environment and preserving biodiversity. Participants are also encouraged to support Europe’s zero-pollution ambition and to propose solutions that will enable us to build and renovate in an energy and resource efficient way.

If you have an idea about how to use space to serve the planet, and in particular – to protect and restore the oceans, why not let us know about it! The deadline for submissions in this year’s Galileo Masters competition is July 19, so you still have time to develop your ideas. Click here for more information. 

Media note: This feature can be republished without charge provided the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) is acknowledged as the source at the top or the bottom of the story. You must request permission before you use any of the photographs on the site. If you republish, we would be grateful if you could link back to the EUSPA website (

Updated: Jun 08, 2021