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ESA combines radar and EO data to create world’s first urban habitation map

ESA( European Space Agency) has created World Settlement Footprint 2015 (WSF-2015), which is the world’s first map that combines radar data and satellite imagery for providing an overview of human habitation patterns globally.

Massive migration to urban areas, in search for better prospects, is growing at a rapid pace and it is expected that by 2050 over 70% of the world’s population would dwell in urban areas.

Mapping footprints

Rise in population would not only overburden the existing infrastructure in cities but also have a detrimental impact on disaster preparedness and delivery of essential services. Efficient urban planning and management would be needed so that the rapidly expanding cities could function smoothly. And for that, an exhaustive mapping of population pattern is a prerequisite. 

ESA’s Urban Thematic Exploitation Platform (U-TEP) and its new WSF-2015 dataset are especially suited for the urban spheres of the future which will witness a manifold increase in population in the few years and hence, an added burden on essential services.


Image Courtesy: Esri. WSF-2015 built-up areas in Abidjan


This product has been created with the assistance of the U-TEP by utilizing the methodology developed in the framework of the ESA SAR for urbanization monitoring (SAR4URBAN) project lead by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Image Courtesy: ESRI. Urban sprawl in Shanghai

The map has a high spatial resolution and uses multi-temporal analysis of around 700,000 Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar and Landsat-8 multispectral satellite images, which were collected over a period of two years between 2014-2015.

Multiple datasets 

Integration of the WSF-15 datasets on U-TEP Visualization and Analytics Tool leads to the inclusion of other datasets such as topographic and social media data, as well as socio-economic statistics that offer the user the way to upload particular geographic information.

U-TEP multi-source data and tools are all available in a single platform and aims to provide comprehensive information that would help scientists, urban planners and policymakers in creating and maintaining sustainable urban environments.

“U-TEP will benefit from the new WSF-2015 data, particularly in view of services for more effective urban planning and service provision, enhanced risk analysis related to natural disasters, or improved assessment of human impact on ecosystems,” says Mattia Marconcini, who managed the WSF-2015 development at DLR.

Availability of data on urban population is essential for developing countries. This data is crucial for progress and interlinked with the realization of SDGs.

Focusing on this, DLS is also working on an updated version of T-TEP that will be called the WSF-Evolution.