Imagine you’re a businessperson with ideas about monitoring oil spills, modeling the effects of anthropogenic noise on the sea environment, reducing fuel use and CO2 emissions in maritime transport, supporting sustainable resource management of African fisheries, helping ships navigate safely through iceberg infested waters, predicting harmful algal blooms, predicting the drift of sailors who fall overboard and computing a search radius to bring them home safely, or locating plastic debris to sample, study and remove it from our oceans. For all of these problems you’d need data. Now, you are able to get it, for free, from the Copernicus program by the European Union (EU).

Sentinel-2, a Copernicus land monitoring mission flown by ESA. Credit: ESA.

Introducing: Copernicus

Copernicus is the world’s leading provider of environmental data, producing over 12 TB of data daily. That will grow as the program continues to mature. It has grown out of the former Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program and is extending Europe’s capacity for Earth Observation. In this capacity it is the environmental component of the EU’s contribution to harnessing the benefits of space for its citizens.
Copernicus is implemented by a number of international organizations, including the European Space Agency, the European Environment Agency, EUMETSAT, the European Centre for Mid-Range Weather Forecasting, and others. Together, these organizations offer environmental data and services that allow a comprehensive monitoring of the Earth’s atmosphere, marine environment, land, and climate. These observations also contribute to emergency management and security applications. They come primarily from the Sentinel missions, a mixture of spacecraft devoted to a specific purpose, such as monitoring the Earth’s land surface, or instruments flying on board larger satellites, such as the Sentinel-4 mission flown aboard EUMETSAT’s Meteosat Third Generation Sounder spacecraft.
Perhaps most importantly, access to the data is open and free to all, including commercial users.

Working with Copernicus data

One of the intents of Copernicus is to promote commercial growth. Copernicus has several impact areas that benefit from Earth observation data from space. Participants in startups are likely to find their areas of interest are covered by Copernicus data. In this case, it’s a simple matter to register for and download the data.
There are more uses of the Copernicus data than just personal or business growth, though. The Copernicus Masters is a series of challenges to solve some of the most pressing problems of our times using Copernicus data, and attractive prizes await those with the best ideas.
The Copernicus Incubation Program is another good opportunity to kick-start your business, offering 50,000 EUR (55,800 USD) to 20 startups a year in equity-free financing. In order to qualify, your business must have a partner who agrees to incubate you for the duration of funding. Those funds can go a long way toward prototyping your idea, developing your business, and keeping the lights on as you blaze your trail to success.
Of course Copernicus itself requires services and products. If you’re interesting in developing unique and innovative solutions for the EU, keep your eyes out for calls for tenders and other opportunities as they get posted.

Sentinel-3, a Copernicus multi-use imaging and sea surface topography mission flown by EUMETSAT. Credit: ESA

Space for Earth

The EU has recognized that space is not simply a frontier for exploration, but a vast ocean of opportunities to improve lives and generate income on Earth. Copernicus is just part of the EU’s activities in space, which also include space situational awareness, satellite communications, and navigation services. As the European space market continues to grow, so will the opportunities it offers. Space may be the final frontier, but it’s also a market of near limitless potential that we are just beginning to exploit – for the benefit of Earth.

Posted by Daniel Lee