European Space Agency launches innovative coastline charting system

European Space Agency launches innovative coastline charting system

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The European Space Agency has awarded the contract for the euro 1 million COASTCHART project aiming to provide hydrographic offices with a system that allows standard navigation charts to be updated with accurate coastline information derived from space-based observations. The contract has been won by a consortium of companies – LogicaCMG, PCI in Canada, BRGM and BOOST Technologies in France and Remote Sensing Applications Consultants, Plymouth University and University College London.

There is a significant lack of coastal information around the world due to the difficulty and cost of coastal surveys. In many places, particularly in developing countries, the position of the shoreline is not accurately known. In addition the coastal information shown on marine charts is often out of date which can present a risk to shipping.

The primary objective of the two year project is to deliver a coastline delineation system to hydrographic offices in France (SHOM) and the UK (UKHO). In addition the project will delineate 6000 km of coastline along the West African coast and deliver data products from this work to chart compilers in the hydrographic offices. The main data source used in the COASTCHART system will be the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) on Envisat, ESA’s flagship satellite for observing the Earth. Due to its viewing flexibility and cloud penetrating capability ASAR radar allows images to be acquired that coincide with the time of high tide at key locations along the coast – even in the cloudy tropics.