Earth observation

Earth observation (EO) is a promising, fast-growing field boosted by a wide range of applications across various economic sectors, including preci­sion farming, civil protec­tion, insurance, natural resource monitoring, oil and gas exploration, meteorology and urban monitoring.

Growth potential of Earth observation

The EO data exploitation market (data sales and value-added services) exhibits the highest annual growth of all the space exploitation markets, with an average rate above 13%. The need for EO data in geo-information products, and the increasingly central role of Big Data reinforce the development potential of commercial activities, making the young EO market particularly promising for the years to come.

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A market with profound changes in business models and technology

The recent emergence of low-cost small satellite technology enabled EO companies to revolutionise their business models, based on near real-time low resolution images, such as those provided by the Dove satellites operated by Planet (formerly PlanetLabs) or the ICEYE radar satellite constellation. Combined with the growing and promising EO market, these low infrastructure cost projects prompted private investment in space ventures, especially in North America, from venture capital funds, private equity firms or non-space angel investors.

In addition, the tremendous amount of data generated by EO satellites stands as both a challenge for EO companies and an opportunity for large ICT players, such as Google and Amazon, which are fitted to tackle Big Data issues and willing to cross-fertilise their IT capabilities. PwC considers that stimulating private initiatives on the European EO market, supporting more vertically integrated innovative models, developing user-oriented data access platforms based on new design-thinking approaches and ensuring synergies between EO and ICT are crucial to maintaining a competitive and inspiring European EO sector.

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Governance trends

Institutional spending on EO programmes has increased over the years and the deployment of Copernicus assets that began in 2014 will intensify. However, national policy differences and a lack of standardisation between frameworks may prove to be an obstacle to the efficient use of EO services.

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Technological trends

The use of microsatellite constellations means that new business models can be developed, while payload performances continue to improve.

Commercial off-the-shelf components for satellite manufacturing and miniaturisation are reducing satellite costs.

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Business trends

The emergence of private business ventures and new sources of private financing, especially in the United States, should result in riskier projects being pursued. However, the significant amount of EO data will prove challenging for Big Data and efficient data dissemination, as substantial investment will be required to cover the infrastructure costs.

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Changes in demand

The demand for EO satellites is growing as markets for applications become increasingly diversified. Furthermore, demand from emerging economies is expanding rapidly. Satellite imagery services could, however, be challenged by drone‑based remote sensing offerings, which could be considered more suitable in certain markets.

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Our specialised service offering

Strategy

  • Analyses of EO downstream market technology, governance, business and demand trends
  • Benchmarking of existing platforms’ cloud computing capabilities and user interfaces
  • Gap analyses between end‑user needs and EO market offerings

Socio-economic impact assessments

  • GDP impact assessments of institutional EO programmes
  • Assessments of socio‑economic benefits on the EO downstream and end-user markets
  • Cost-Benefit Analyses (CBA) of EO programmes 

Governance & Operations

  • Analyses of intermediate and end-user requirements for platforms and data manipulation interfaces
  • Diagnoses of data dissemination processes
  • Big Data capability requirements and opportunity analyses for EO downstream companies

Regulatory

  • Analysis of warranty and liability safeguards embedded in Earth Observation programmes

Selected credentials

PwC has a breadth of both private and public sector experience in EO technology across regions. In particular, PwC has been regularly involved in supporting the European EO flagship programme, Copernicus, since the first satellite entered into service in 2014 with more than 10 dedicated assignments.

Socio-economic impact assessments of the Copernicus programme

PwC was mandated by the European Commission to undertake several targeted impact assessment on the EO downstream and end-user markets, including an ex-post downstream assessment of the market impact of Copernicus along 8 selected value chains, in consultation with more than 100 stakeholders, a large scale ex-ante societal impact assessment of the programme, and a GDP impact of the spending in the Copernicus upstream.

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Assessment of the Earth observation market and characterisation of new business models

PwC carried out a characterisation of the EO market for a private investment fund, with expected market evolution, industry dynamics, emerging business models and investment opportunities.

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Review of the Big Data vision for Copernicus

PwC defined an approach to facing Big Data challenges and exploiting its potential in the field of public EO data. The results should help the European Commission to develop its vision for the Copernicus dissemination platform.

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Other governance and policy studies

PwC was also entrusted with performing the Copernicus programme mid-term review, the assessments of the governance schemes of the Copernicus entrusted entities, and an evaluation of open data policy impacts. Finally, our team carried out a feasibility assessment on two potential new Copernicus products aimed at Ground Motion Monitoring and Cultural Heritage Monitoring.

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Photo: NASA | ESA | CNES | SpaceX | Blue Origin | RocketLab | Maxar Technologies

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Contact us

Luigi Scatteia

Associé, Directeur, Space Practice Leader, PwC France

Tel: +33 1 56 57 58 46

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