Geospatial Round-up – August 2019

August 5th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Safety by design for automated vehicles

Emphasising safety by design, eleven companies across the automotive and automated driving technology spectrum has published “Safety First for Automated Driving,” (SaFAD), a non-binding organised framework for the development, testing and validation of safe automated passenger vehicles. These companies (Aptiv, Audi, Baidu, BMW, Continental, Daimler, FCA US LLC, Here, Infineon, Intel and Volkswagen) comprise a broad representation across the industry. This white paper represents a report on how to build, test and operate a safe automated vehicle. It offers 12 Guiding Principles, which are further refined into capabilities of the automated vehicle, from which safe-by-design elements are derived to support the capability and achieve the guiding principles. The paper emphasises the safety by design, along with verification and validation, as the industry works toward creating standards for automated driving.

Blue economy charter gains support

Kenya, Seychelles, and Mauritius are three of twelve countries that has stepped forward to lead action groups under the Blue Charter – a commitment made by the 53 Commonwealth member states to work together to solve ocean-related problems. Kenya champoined the area of sustainable blue economy, while the Seychelles leads action on marine protected areas, and Mauritius co-championed coral reef action. Delegates at the four-day programme in London during June focused on strategies to rally members, mobilise resources for collaborative projects and boost public awareness. The group focuses on practical action, with response guided principally by those who experience most acutely the difficulty and trauma of ocean and climate-related challenges. Other action groups include: Aquaculture (led by Cyprus), Coral Reef Protection and Restoration (Australia, Belize, Mauritius), Mangrove Restoration (Sri Lanka), Ocean Acidification (New Zealand), Ocean Observations (Canada), Ocean and Climate Change (Fiji), Marine Plastic Pollution (United Kingdom, Vanuatu) and Marine Protected Areas (Seychelles).

Measuring global power plant emissions from space

A new project, by WattTime and funded by a $1,7-million grant from, will use a global network of satellites to measure carbon emissions from all large power plants worldwide and render the information public. This project will develop a global continuous emissions monitoring system that is granular, accurate, and comprehensive. It will leverage the growing global satellite network to observe power plants from space. AI technology will use the latest image processing algorithms to detect signs of power plant emissions. For maximum accuracy, the project will combine data from a variety of different sensors operating at different wavelengths. AI algorithms will cross-validate multiple indicators of power plant emissions, from thermal infrared indicating heat near smoke stacks and cooling water intake, to visual spectrum recognition that a power plant is emitting smoke. Accurate global emissions data has the ability to inspire everything from local environmental activism, to new and effective environmental policy, to verification that countries are achieving national-level emissions targets such as Paris Accord commitments.

Slave ship found

Clotilda, the last ship to bring enslaved persons to the United States, has been discovered along the Mobile River in Alabama. Search Inc, in collaboration with the Alabama Historical Commission and the Slave Wrecks Project of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, publicly announced their findings after a comprehensive, yearlong scientific investigation. Financial support for the project was provided in part by the National Geographic Society, who worked with their media partners to produce a short documentary. The storied ship illegally transported 110 people from Benin, Africa to Mobile, Alabama in 1860, more than 50 years after the United States banned the importation of enslaved people to the country. (Read more here.)

Military satellite launch fails

The failure of Flight VV15 carrying the FalconEye1 satellite was the first Vega failure after 14 successful launches in a row since being introduced at the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana in 2012. The launch vehicle lifted off as scheduled on 10 July 2019. Approximately two minutes after liftoff, shortly after ignition of the second stage, a launcher anomaly occurred, leading to the premature end of the mission. The European Space Agency (ESA) and Arianespace immediately decided to appoint an independent inquiry commission, tasked with analysing the reasons for the failure and defining the measures needed to ensure the resumption of Vega flights while fulfilling all requisite safety and security conditions. Preparations for the next Ariane 5 launch are continuing at the Guiana Space Centre, Europe’s Spaceport.

Drone to explore Saturn’s moon

Advancing Nasa’s search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly drone mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon, Titan. Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. This marks the first time Nasa will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet. The craft has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere (four times denser than Earth’s) to become the first vehicle to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.


[1] ‘Action and innovation to drive Commonwealth Blue Charter champs – Commonwealth Bluecharter’. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 05-Aug-2019].
[2] ‘Alabama Historical Commission – Celebrate 50 Years of Impact: Our Legacy, Our Future’. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 05-Aug-2019].
[3] ‘Automotive and Mobility Industry Leaders Publish First-of-its-Kind Framework for Safe Automated Driving Systems’. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 05-Aug-2019].
[4] ‘Clotilda, “Last American Slave Ship,” Discovered in Alabama’, SEARCH, Inc. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 05-Aug-2019].
[5] ‘Exclusive: “Last American slave ship” discovered in Alabama’, Culture & History, 22-May-2019. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 05-Aug-2019].
[6] K. Northon, ‘NASA’s Dragonfly Mission to Titan Will Look for Origins, Signs of Life’, NASA, 27-Jun-2019. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 05-Aug-2019].
[7] ESA, ‘Vega Flight VV15 failure: Arianespace and ESA appoint an independent inquiry commission’, European Space Agency. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 05-Aug-2019].

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