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November 30, 2022

ESA Φ-lab at ESRIN and Thales Alenia Space to work jointly on Earth observation innovation

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The ESA Director of Earth Observation has signed a letter of intent with Thales Alenia Space Italy, with the aim of collaborating on disruptive solutions for Earth observation (EO). Cognitive SAR, federated learning, hybrid computing for Artificial Intelligence (AI) at scale and the use of AI and EO in immersive reality are the core elements of the collaboration.

With its mission to accelerate the future of Earth observation through transformational innovation, Φ-lab continues to reinforce Europe’s global lead in the space science and commercial sectors. Partnerships are a key element of innovation, and Φ-lab has a strong track record of collaboration with a broad range of organisations.

Artificial Intelligence and new computing paradigms like neuromorphic, quantum, and edge computing, applied to both optical and radar EO data, are a strategic area of interest for both Φ-lab and Thales Alenia Space in Italy. Specific topics include end-to-end learning for SAR data, physically-based AI for extracting information from SAR data and enabling object detection, recognition and classification, collective intelligence and federated learning at the edge, and the use of AI and EO in immersive-reality scenarios such as AR/VR for satellite data and management.

The aim of the cooperation between Φ-lab and Thales Alenia Space Italy is to jointly explore such innovative technologies and their application to uses cases of significant interest to both entities. The expectation is that this will help ESA Φ-lab to focus on research that seeks to boost the innovation capabilities of the European EO industry, enabling the sector to gain an unrivalled competitive advantage in the face of fierce worldwide competition.

Massimo Comparini is SEVP of Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space: “There are both significant opportunities and sizeable challenges in harnessing the power of cutting-edge AI paradigms for Earth observation. We believe that Thales Alenia Space’s extensive industry experience, in combination with ESA Φ-lab’s unparalleled reputation for research, will create a platform for developing practical solutions to real-world problems in EO data handling.”

“With this agreement, ESA Φ-lab is creating another strategic partnership that will push the boundaries of Earth observation innovation, strengthening Europe’s unique competitive advantage through ground-breaking innovation,” added Giuseppe Borghi, the Head of Φ-lab and the main ESA contact for the collaboration. “We are extremely happy that an EO world leader like Thales Alenia Space has proactively identified synergies with ESA that will drive the success of this mutually beneficial initiative on transformative technologies.”

In commenting on the signing of the letter of intent, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes Simonetta Cheli emphasised the symbiotic nature of the undertaking: “Partnering with Thales Alenia Space in game-changing Earth observation research is yet another example of ESA advancing the European space sector through collaborative innovation. Our joint efforts will pool the know-how of both parties to yield what I’m certain will be remarkable breakthroughs in AI-driven information processing.”

To know more: ESA Φ-lab, Thales Alenia Space Italy