Space tech maps heat loss in housing over Leeds

Technology developed to capture high-definition thermal data from space has been used much closer to Earth to map heat loss from houses in Leeds.

Satellite Vu

London-based Satellite Vu’s thermal imaging technology has been used onboard a specially equipped aircraft to gather data on the level of heat loss from individual buildings, thereby helping to identify those most in need of retrofitting.

Michael-Paul Kirstein, head of Flight Operations at Satellite Vu said the aircraft flew at 8000ft above ground with the ground speed varying between 120 knots and 140 knots for the duration of the survey, which took two hours.

The flight was funded by MCS Charitable Foundation and carried out in partnership with Leeds City Council, which will use the thermal imaging data to help residents better understand heat loss and to motivate retrofitting in the private sector. The data will also be used to bolster local area-based retrofit and other schemes by the council, such as a whole house retrofit of 300 mixed-tenure Victorian back-to-back homes in the Holbeck area of the city.

According to Dr Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin, Research and Campaigns Manager at MCS Charitable, 29 million UK homes urgently need upgrading.

Satellite Vu is launching a constellation of Earth imaging satellites that will measure the thermal emissions of any structure on the planet at multiple times of day and night. In December 2021 the company signed a contract with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) for a Mid Wave Infra-Red (MWIR) thermal imaging satellite that will lead the planned constellation of seven MWIR spacecraft. 

“We trialled the Engineering Model of the satellite sensor in the early days of our aerial campaigns,” said Tobias Reinicke, founder & CTO of Satellite Vu. “This data gave us a great idea of what was possible with our sensor. That sensor, however, was needed back at SSTL for ongoing testing throughout the full satellite build, and it was also not optimised for aerial campaigns.”
Reinicke continued: “Due to the need for further research into what our data would look like over various targets, we opted to purchase a sensor of similar specification but optimised for aerial campaigns. Using this camera we have managed to capture 18 months’ worth of data, capturing over 150 flying hours and capturing 6000 scenes across the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and various southern states in the USA. This data has been instrumental in informing our product managers and geospatial engineers what our in-space asset would be capable of.”