Harnessing Earth-observation data for practical healthcare applications

The EU-funded AURORA project will develop technologies to turn data from the Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 missions – due to be launched as part of the European Space Agency’s Copernicus program – into practical, actionable information that will help protect the health of European citizens.

The Sentinel missions will deploy cutting-edge instruments in space capable of monitoring ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere with unprecedented accuracy. Ozone is a powerful oxidant that constitutes a respiratory hazard for humans at ground level, but in the upper atmosphere it plays an important role in preventing harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth’s surface.

By combining geostationary and low Earth orbit high-resolution sensor data in different frequency ranges, the AURORA team will develop tools able to generate near real-time short-term models of air pollution in urban areas as well as estimates of ultraviolet radiation exposure. The tools should help cities to combat air pollution, help people with respiratory problems avoid areas with poor air quality and provide accurate warnings of levels of ultraviolet radiation – a skin cancer risk factor.

Initially working with simulated data to test advanced data-fusion algorithms, the project team plan to subsequently deploy the full capabilities of the technology after the launch of the Sentinel missions.

The ultraviolet monitoring system will be implemented in an app including personalized data on the photo-protection properties of a user’s skin and near real-time monitoring of ultraviolet radiation absorption. The air pollution monitoring system will be deployed to provide awareness of actual air quality in cities in near-real time at high spatial resolution, down to neighbourhood or street level, and transform this information into practical recommendations for citizens and city officials.

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