Thales Alenia Space, joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a letter of intent to collaborate in supporting the creation of future disruptive space-based solutions in the Earth Observation domain.
Thales Alenia Space will cooperate with the ESA Φ-lab to explore innovative technologies based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and their applications to use cases of significant interest to both entities.
Artificial Intelligence and new computing paradigms like neuromorphic, quantum, and edge computing, applied to both optical and radar Earth Observation data, are a strategic area of interest for both Φ-lab and Thales Alenia Space. Key topics of the collaboration include end-to-end learning for Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR) data, physically-based Artificial Intelligence to extract information from SAR data and enable object detection, recognition and classification, collective intelligence and federated learning at the edge, and the use of AI and Earth Observation in immersive-reality scenarios such as Augmented and Virtual reality for satellite and mission data management.
“There are both significant opportunities and challenges in harnessing the power of cutting-edge AI paradigms for Earth observation” said Massimo Comparini SEVP Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space. “We believe that Thales Alenia Space’s unique background in developing high-performing Earth Observation systems while mastering in-house all enabling technologies, combined with ESA Φ-lab’s unparalleled reputation for research, will create the perfect environment for developing practical solutions to real-world problems in Earth Observation data handling.”
In commenting on the signing of the letter of intent, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes Simonetta Cheli emphasised the symbiotic nature of the undertaking: “Partnering with Thales Alenia Space in game-changing Earth observation research is yet another example of ESA advancing the European space sector through collaborative innovation. Our joint efforts will pool the know-how of both parties to yield what I’m certain will be remarkable breakthroughs in AI-driven information processing.”
The collaboration will boost the innovation capabilities of the European Earth Observation industry, enabling the sector to gain an unrivalled competitive advantage in the face of fierce worldwide competition. A joint ESA and Thales Alenia Space team will be set up to monitor the progress of the research activities.
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