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Better Information for Land Managers

and Developers

The challenge

NatureScot own, and have access to, important environmental data that can inform and guide land managers and developers who want to make changes on protected sites. From simply cutting back vegetation to building a windfarm, these changes need to gain NatureScot’s approval, amongst other stakeholders, and they will need to demonstrate the potential to have a positive environmental impact overall. But much of that important environmental data is currently difficult to access, making it hard for land managers and developers to evaluate the approvability of their land change proposals. Furthermore, the existing process takes up significant time for NatureScot officers to assist and advise on a case-by-case basis, at the taxpayer’s expense.

NatureScot has identified issues with applications which could have been solved had prior knowledge held in their own records be accessible to help and support applicants. GovTech Catalyst Challenge has awarded funding to NatureScot, who have appointed a consortium consisting of Astrosat and machine intelligence experts Intelligent Reality, to develop a solution to this challenge.

What we are doing

Astrosat and Intelligent Reality will develop an integrated, cloud-based, data analytics and visualisation platform that provides users with easy access to all relevant data relating to a land change application. This will enable applicants to develop a good understanding of the sensitivities and opportunities which relate to any protected area on the site of the proposed change, any constraints which need to be considered, and opportunities to improve the proposal if a change is to be taken forward.

This consortium brings together Astrosat’s expertise in Earth Observation (EO), data science and visualisation with Intelligent Reality’s experience in complex data intelligence, adaptive analytics and forecasting.

How we are doing it

The Data Pipeline
By gathering data from a wide range of sources including satellites and NatureScot’s own records, the solution aims to help measure the environmental impact of changes and provide users with a straightforward initial decision support mechanism.
The data pipeline comprises four elements:

  1. Data discovery & integration: Brings together all the data sources using a self-organising data intelligence platform to identify patterns in the data.
  2. Core analytics: Derives a reference model for current and historical data for designated and third-party sites, and the wider natural environment in Scotland.
  3. Correlation, exploration & prediction: Performs automated analysis and organisation of the data relating to multiple environmental attributes to create metrics for the impact of activities.
  4. Interaction & visualisation: Presents the organised and analysed data on an interface where users can define and refine queries, generate reports and alerts, and visualise outputs.

Insights from Space
Astrosat and Intelligent Reality will enrich the technology offering by leveraging the strengths of EO to provide deeper and more intelligent insights relating to recent land changes, species migration and distribution as well as exposure to natural risks such as landslide, flooding and fire for a specific Area of Interest.

EO data sources integrated to enhance insight will include, but not limited to:

  • Land classification: Data from various sources (NASA Landsat suite, ESA Sentinel suite) to perform land classification of Scotland.
  • Natural impact assessment: Assessing the requirements for a “What If” scenario-building tool, to enable future integration of this capability.
  • Moisture indices: Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) from ESA’s Sentinel-1 to monitor peatland soil moisture.
  • Vegetation indices: Data from ESA’s Sentinel suite is used to create a vegetation health indicator, which will provide valuable insights into historical and current conditions to reveal the evolving health of vegetation over time.
  • Burn scars & recovery: Data from ESA’s Sentinel-2 to create an impact assessment of fires affecting Areas of Interest to NatureScot and landowners/land managers.

Data Science
We will enrich the technology offering by bringing our advanced data science, modelling and analytics capabilities to discover new insights and intelligence (including space data) related to recent land changes, species migration/distribution and natural risks relating to landslide, coastal erosion, flooding and fire on the Area of Interest relating to change proposal.

A Three-Step Workflow for Users
The applicant is encouraged to follow a simple three-step process to:

  • Interrogate valuable data from the convenience of a single platform
  • Understand the positive and negative impact of a proposed change and finally
  • Test mitigation tactics to minimise negative impact.

Who is involved?

GovTech Catalyst 
GovTech Catalyst is a £20 million fund, established to help solve public sector problems (called ‘challenges’) using innovative digital technology.  To be selected for funding, the public sector team must describe a current public sector service or policy delivery problem which has no current solution, needs an innovative digital solution, and will bring better public services or reduce costs.  They must also be willing to buy the digital solution at the end of the process.  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/govtech-catalyst-overview 

NatureScot is Scotland’s nature agency, working to improve our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. https://www.nature.scot/ 

Astrosat is an Earth Observation company and experts in combining freely available satellite data with ground data to derive insights that enhance our understanding of societal and environmental challenges on Earth.  https://astrosat.net/ 

Intelligent Reality 
Intelligent Reality creates adaptive data intelligence, providing insight and forecasting to support decision making in diverse, rapidly changing and generally ‘messy’ data environments. Its particular focus is on societal challenges, ranging from Covid-19 analytics and forecasting to predictive analytics for the natural environment against human impact and net zero. https://intelligentreality.co/