Irish firm wins ESA contract for environmental early-warning system

16 Oct 2020

Image: © vaalaa/

The Icon Group has won an ESA contract to develop a platform that uses satellite imagery to spot impending environmental issues across Europe.

A Dublin-based Earth observation and geoscience company could play an important role in Europe’s efforts to monitor the climate crisis. According to The Irish Times, the Icon Group confirmed it had won a European Space Agency (ESA) contract worth approximately €500,000 to help develop the Danube Environmental Risk Assessment Platform.

The platform will be deployed as part of EU’s Copernicus Earth-monitoring satellite programme and will be used by national and regional authorities in Europe, as well as agricultural and environmental groups.

Its purpose will be to use satellite imagery and cloud-based applications to monitor any potential environmental problems, such as ecosystem collapse or significant agricultural run-off, from orbit.

The Icon Group will lead the project alongside two other companies – TerraSigna from Romania and GeoVille in Austria.

An advance warning system

Icon Group chief executive Tom McHugh said Earth observation tools are becoming increasingly important aspects of how we monitor the impact of the climate emergency and how we plan activities and economies to mitigate negative environmental consequences.

“The Danube Environmental Risk Assessment Platform will offer both Government and NGOs an invaluable tool that can act as an advance warning system for environmental catastrophe, ensuring better decision making that is taken in conjunction with other EU partners.”

Icon Group has previously secured contracts with the Department of Agriculture and the ESA to monitor crops, hedgerows and track wildlife disease across Ireland and Europe. McHugh said that the Copernicus programme is “one of the most ambitious projects in space at the moment” and represents a “huge opportunity for Irish tech companies seeking to showcase new technologies”.

Last month, Irish computer vision start-up Ubotica announced that its AI tech was launched into orbit aboard the ESA’s Earth observation satellite PhiSat-1. The company’s technology will be tasked with automatic cloud detection on images to decide which ones to send back to Earth and which to discard.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic