Earth Observation for Sustainable Development in Urban Areas

Motivation and Challenges

Since 2008 the European Space Agency (ESA) has worked closely together with the International Financing Institutions (IFIs) and their Client States to harness the benefits of Earth Observation (EO) in their operations and resources management. In this context, Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) is a new ESA initiative, which aims at increasing the uptake of EO-based information in the IFIs regional and global programmes by means of a systematic user-driven approach.

Urban development has been identified as one of the three high-priority EO4SD thematic areas (together with water resources management and agriculture and rural development). Indeed, many governments are facing worldwide the staggering growth of urban areas and the difficulty to properly cover the basic needs of the fast growing urban population. The ability to successfully maintain or establish adequate services related to infrastructure, water supply, electricity, sanitation, or poverty and education is then of paramount importance and has a strong influence on the overall development of a country.

Joanneum Research is responsible for products in the frame of natural disasters, i.e. flood and landslide risk maps as well as subsidence mapping with Sentinel-1 data. Further, JR is work package leader for capacity building. In this frame, a series of Webinars have been held, which can be accessed at

Specific objectives

EO4SD-Urban aims at demonstrating the benefits of EO-based geo-information products and services to support urban planning tasks in the context of programs related to the International Financing Institutions (IFIs) and stakeholders in Client States. Specifically, its goals are:​

  • To provide convincing demonstrations of the benefit and utility of EO-based information in the urban framework;
  • To provide the intended services on a regional basis for about 40 cities;
  • To ensure that the products and services are user-driven via a strong engagement with IFIs, stakeholders and Client States;
  • To provide an operational urban service portfolio offering quality controlled products;
  • To provide a technology transfer via capacity building exercises in the selected study regions;
  • To ensure a robust organization of service networks with the regional counterparts via dedicated local offices;
  • To develop new business opportunities in urban EO services for the European industry.

This project has received funding from the European Space Agency ESA.


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