Earth observation

Earth Observation (EO) from the Space has all the potential to provide a unique and comprehensive view of our planet and the necessary data to support actions and informed decisions.


Earth Observation is the gathering of information about planet Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems via remote sensing technologies, usually involving satellites carrying imaging devices.

The acquired data is usually in the form of digital imagery, which is used to monitor and evaluate the status of, and changes in, the natural and human-made environment.

Space-based technologies deliver accurate datasets, which – in combination with research and development regarding the appropriate data processing methods -, provide an unparalleled instrument for collecting information concerning the planet. Currently, Earth Observation tools include land stations that record air quality and rainwater trends; seismic and Global Positioning System (GPS) stations; floating buoys for monitoring ocean currents, temperature and salinity; sonar and radar for estimating fish and bird populations; and also high-tech environmental satellites that scan the Earth from space.

As a result, it is possible to monitor the state and progression of the environment, be it at land, at sea or in the air, and have the ability to rapidly appraise situations during crises such as extreme weather events or during times of human conflict.

Tackling climate change is a societal and economic priority that Portugal should support both as a supplier as well as system integrator, and also as a user as well as a provider of solutions. Space-based data and information can complement in-situ gathered information to provide services to address many areas, assisting Portugal to reach 2050 carbon neutrality compromise.

In Portugal, DGT (Directorate of Territory) is one of the few entities in the public administration with substantial experience in Earth Observation, already applying, in an operational manner, products derived from satellite images in the process of production of soil occupation cartography (COS).

Together with the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), DGT coordinates the IPSentinel platform that provides satellite images within Copernicus Program (i.e. Sentinels) to Portugal.

Objectives of the Portuguese Earth Observation program

1. to develop and implement a national soil occupation monitoring program that will benefit the entire Public Administration.

2. to reinforce and maintain, together with IPMA, the IPSentinel platform, optimising the availability of satellite images for the whole Public Administration, including for example the following goals:

  • Provision of satellite-related services, which support an entire infrastructure linked to digital communications, allowing for resource efficiency improvements (e.g. mobility, increased agricultural productivity, resource management such as potable water, monitoring of forest fires, water resources, floods, water availability, and the issue of transboundary basins, in particular the Guadiana basin, etc.);
  • Contribute to Portugal’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, facilitating its implementation.

Instruments of the Portuguese Earth Observation program 

  • Contribute to the next generation Copernicus and FutureEO programmes to maintain and further develop its thus-far acquire competence;
  • Develop subsystem and system competence through concrete projects which are user-driven and/or industry proposed preferably in co-funded schemes as much as possible (InCubed+). By doing so, contribute to European leadership in space-based solutions. Furthermore, by diversification of the fleet of satellites available to end-users, enable the development of applications and services tied to the developing of small systems, thus contributing to larger systems;
  • Lead and foster “Blue Worlds” activities and initiatives with a particular focus on the Atlantic but in close collaboration with European and non-European countries to address water bodies, their understanding and sustainable socio-economic development and exploitation;
  • Support end-users (in integrating space in solutions to their specific problems) through the amplification of the BIC/Incubator concept to centres across the nation;
  • Invest in a new generation of services based on Earth Observation systems as well as PNT.