Just how creatively earth observation data from Europe‘s Copernicus project can be used was again confirmed in the “Copernicus Masters” competition for ideas. The winners were announced and honoured in an award ceremony during the Satellite Masters Conference in Berlin on 20 October 2015. The Earth Observation Center (EOC) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) supported the “DLR Energy & Environmental Challenge 2015” part of the competition, which sought the best idea for an application relating to the realm of environment, climate and energy.
The eleven-person jury had the task of selecting a winner from over 40 different submissions, not easy, considering the many creative ideas. But in the end there was a unanimous decision in favour of the project submitted by Deepak Bhatia, an independent software developer who addressed the timely problem of bee mortality. Bees are an essential component of food production and important for maintaining biodiversity since they pollinate not only our fruit and vegetables but also wild plants. However, current studies reveal that bee populations are shrinking for reasons that include pesticide application and changes in land use. In order to better deal with such challenges in the future, Bhatia developed an app that makes use of direct information from beekeepers (population sizes, temperatures and bee swarm areas) combined with earth observation data. Based on Copernicus Sentinel satellite data, land cover and use, plant growth, and air pollution in regions with bee populations can be identified. These data can be retrieved with the app and give users the possibility to assess the swarm areas of their bees and, as needed, move their beehives to more suitable locations. This application should help stop the shrinkage of existing populations and even help them to grow.
The jury, consisting of representatives from ESA, the EU, the Bavarian Office of the Environment, the Munich municipal utilities department, the insurance firm Westfälische Provinzial Versicherung AG, and, of course, DLR, selected Bhatia’s bee app for a number of reasons. A crucial consideration was, however, that his idea focuses on a relevant topic and uses earth observation data in a new context combined with other types of data. The award was presented by Dr. Gerd Gruppe, a member of the DLR executive board, at a formal ceremony in Berlin. DLR is supporting the further development of this software with prize money of 5000 euro.