Satellite and airborne data for grassland and agricultural land monitoring

To improve monitoring of grassland and agricultural land management, in 2018, data scientists from the Institute for Environmental Solutions (IES) developed a satellite and airborne data-based tool that can be used for land cover and land use mapping and classification.


The development of this tool is a step closer to the modernisation of natural resource management and monitoring in Latvia. The information and data provided by satellite and airborne technologies can be a significant support mechanism for policy makers, developers and regulatory institutions. For example, Rural Support Service of Latvia, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre as well as Planning Regions.


IES’s data scientists have developed this tool in cooperation with European Space Agency by using Earth observation programme’s Copernicus Sentine-1 and Sentinel-2 satellite data. Using the tool IES’s researchers can detect the status of grasslands, monitor management activities such as mowing and tillage. Moreover, they can detect the presence of invasive species, and observe the status of grassland biodiversity. Finally, also to assess the biomass of grassland and agricultural land vegetation. By combining these data, the researchers can detect whether the territory is used for its intended purpose. For example, they can notice if the territory, which is reported as a grassland is not used for other agricultural activities.

To test the precision of the developed tool, researchers validated satellite data information with other data gathering methods – in-situ measurements and airborne technologies. Airborne data were gathered with a unique state-of-the-art airborne remote sensing technology system named ARSENAL. It combines eight integrated spectral sensor technologies, including ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared, short wave infrared, thermal infrared, mid-wave infrared sensors, as well as light detection system and a high resolution RGB camera. The sensor technologies are mounted into the BN-2T-4S Defender airplane.


Following the results of this research, the Institute for Environmental Solutions has continued to grow the expertise in remote sensing, data technologies and machine learning. Today, for research purposes IES use satellite, airborne and drone data, robotics, data merging, machine learning and other technologies. By combining these technologies with the knowledge of different experts and latest science discoveries, IES develops solutions for sustainable management of natural resources. Currently IES is the leading expert of the Earth observation and remote sensing field in Latvia, as well as the service provider for the European Space Agency. 

Remote sensing data-based tool for monitoring of grassland and agricultural land management was developed as part of European Space agency programme PECS (Plan for European Cooperation States) supported project “Assessment of Grassland Quality and Quantity Parameters and Management Activities Using Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data (SentiGrass).

Read more about the project here.