Earth observation tool ready for trial

An online tool to help train the next generation of earth observation and climate change specialists is available for institutions to trial, so that students can work with satellite data from their homes.

Satellite image of volcanic explosion from La Soufrière, St Vincent.
Satellite image of volcanic explosion from La Soufrière, St Vincent. Image credit: Earth Blox

Led by the University of Edinburgh and in partnership with Earth Blox, Earth Blox for Education will give students around the UK instant access to more than 20 petabytes of detailed global imagery – the equivalent of 20,000 home computers.

It will help them develop their skills in observing changes to the Earth and better understand the global impact of deforestation and large-scale disasters, such as the volcanic explosion from La Soufrière in St Vincent, organisers said.

Earth Observation

Earth Observation (EO) teaching usually requires access to a computer laboratory to conduct practical exercises. Under Covid-19 constraints such access was severely limited.

By providing remote access to vast quantities of satellite data and analytics, Earth Blox has helped students to navigate the disruption to their education and continue exercises and learning from their homes.

Earth Blox

Earth Blox works on a web browser, so there is no need for students to install software, download large files or have a fast computer. And by removing the need for laboratory-based work it also provides educators the option to expand learning to larger class sizes.

The new service builds on Earth Blox’s existing cloud-based software for harnessing planetary-scale satellite intelligence, which removes the need for high performance computers and extensive local storage.

Earth Blox is updated every day with more than five million new pixels and is backed by the vast data warehouse of Google’s Earth Engine. Daily updates include images from the European Space Agency’s satellites – Sentinel 1 and 2 missions.

The initiative, funded by the UK Space Agency, is led by the University of Edinburgh in partnership with the start-up Earth Blox, the Universities of Leeds and Glasgow, The Open University, EDINA and STEM Learning Ltd. 

Many of my students want to engage with Earth Observation data, but the usual tools for data analytics require coding skills, or a steep learning curve to learn a desktop application. Earth Blox addresses this need by providing an engaging, introductory tool to EO, providing analysis-ready data for entry-level students and they don’t need to learn how to code. I am now using it in my teaching and I am excited about the new developments, such as help comments on the blocks, which helps students learn effectively at home.

Iain WoodhouseProfessor of Applied Earth Observation, School of GeoSciences


Thanks to this tool it is now possible to learn technical Earth Observation data analysis skills from home – a radical step forward which should encourage many more people to develop the skills for a career in the space sector. Earth Observation is playing an increasing role in the development of our industry, and can help provide solutions to some of our most pressing challenges here on Earth.

Emily GravestockHead of Applications Strategy at the UK Space Agency

Related links

Earth Blox for Education  

School of GeoSciences   

UK Space Agency