DE Africa is Making Sentinel-1 Analysis Ready Data Available for Africa

Sentinel-1 on the DE Africa Map Congo River meets the Atlantic Ocean, captured by Sentinel-1 (showing false color composite generated from VV, VH, VH/VV backscatter) on the DE Africa Map, June 2021

Digital Earth Africa is making Sentinel-1 Analysis Ready Data (ARD) open and accessible for the whole African continent. This is in line with DE Africa’s goal to offer an operational data infrastructure that makes current and historical, analysis-ready satellite data freely available and openly accessible for the entire African continent. Sentinel-1 ARD will allow users to ‘look through cloud,’ a feature that will be particularly pertinent when monitoring tropical and equatorial regions. In addition to this, the data will be available through the Digital Earth Africa Map and sandbox.

A world-first in continental data

Digital Earth Africa worked with partner, Sinergise and CEOS Systems Engineering Office and the international community to ensure the Sentinel-1 data meets the ARD specification. Furthermore, to automatically process the data, DE Africa built pipelines. These pipelines will ensure African users can gain access to Sentinel-1 data a day after acquiring it.  According to DE Africa, this marks the first time anyone has produced radar data automatically in a way that meets ARD specifications, subsequently feeding it into a continental data cube. 

Improvements to decision making

The ready availability of this data will result in massive improvements to users’ ability to map water, crops, and land cover. In addition, it will be instrumental in areas typically densely covered with clouds. 

Sentinel-1 in action

Sentinel-1 has proven itself invaluable in the study of Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano, which erupted on 22 May 2021 at around 17:00 GMT. Lava approached the airport in Goma and moved towards the city centre. Lava subsequently cut off highways, and authorities urged residents from the city of Goma to evacuate. Unfortunately, clouds frequently cover the area, thus, optical (Sentinel-2 or Landsat) or thermal imagery (Landsat) can only discern a limited ground surface at any given time.  

Discover for yourself

Sentinel-1 data is open and accessible to all users, regardless of the level of technical competency. Users can explore the data in the Digital Earth Africa Sandbox or Map. Furthermore, Digital Earth Africa provides a free 6-week self-paced training course, making Earth observation data accessible to problem-solvers worldwide. 


Sentinel-1 is the first Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite to provide routine and frequent global coverage, and its SAR sensors allow for new ways of studying the landscape. The satellite duo is the first of the Copernicus Programme satellite constellation conducted by the European Space Agency. This mission comprises a constellation of two satellites, Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B, which share the same orbital plane. 

For more information on the data specification, visit Digital Earth Africa Docs. Additionally, for more details on CEOS Analysis Ready Data, see here.


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