The new frontiers of AI for Earth observation. Leonardo, Telespazio and e-GEOS sign an agreement with ESA's Φ-lab

(To Leonardo)

The collaboration between Leonardo, Telespazio (joint venture Leonardo 67%, Thales 33%) and e-GEOS (joint venture Telespazio 80%, Italian Space Agency 20%) and Φ-lab, the research center of the European Space Agency (ESA) dedicated to studying new technologies to accelerate Earth observation research by strengthening Europe's leadership in the space sector.

Leonardo, as part of the signed letter of intent, will make use of the Leonardo Lab "Space Technologies" research structure in Rome - and more generally the Leonardo Labs network - which, together with ESA's Φ-lab, will contribute to studies on the optimization of the use of space data for Earth observation. After having explored areas of common interest, ESA Φ-lab and Space Technologies Leonardo Lab, with the Leonardo Labs network, will work jointly on projects that maximize the impact on the space sector of transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence, high performance computing (HPC), quantum computing, big data and machine learning.

The projects covered by the joint collaboration include studies on neuromorphic networks, new artificial intelligence architectures that "mimic" the human brain and its neural networks to go beyond traditional deep learning by increasing the efficiency and speed of information processing. AI algorithms usually require a lot of resources in terms of data, memory, energy and computing capacity, which is why frugal learning technologies and ordinary neural differential equations will also be explored in order to develop new AI methods capable of using less data and computational resources. On-board / edge AI is an area that is rapidly emerging as a complement to cloud computing and joint research will focus on adding artificial intelligence processors to satellite payloads and, therefore, the possibility of developing computational techniques to low power and high performance. Areas related to quantum computing will also be explored, to evaluate how to apply this technology to classification, feature extraction, anomaly detection, cluster analysis, on images from Earth observation satellites. Another central research topic concerns the so-called Explainable / Trusted AI, or the need to increase trust in models of machine learning leveraging on predictability, robustness and explainability, that is the way in which the AI ​​has arrived at the result.

"The mission of the ɸ-lab at ESRIN-ESA is to understand how to overcome the current boundaries of Earth observation (OT), of the way in which the OT is conceived, designed and implemented. Adds Simonetta Cheli, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programs and Head of ESRIN. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the innovation component of this sector, in order to strengthen Europe's competitiveness on a global level both from a scientific and a commercial point of view. When 2 we started interacting with what Leonardo Labs are now, we immediately recognized the potential synergies and complementarities that could have contributed significantly to this vision. We are very pleased to have strengthened our relationship with these important industrial partners through a collaboration that focuses on themes that we certainly see in the future of Earth observation ".

"The Leonardo Group boasts a consolidated relationship with ESA, further strengthened by the agreement signed with Φ-lab". Underlines Franco Ongaro, Leonardo's Chief Technology and Innovation Officer "The agreement with ESA will allow us to pool our skills in areas such as AI, big data and quantum computing, combined with the computational capabilities of Leonardo's HPC infrastructure, davinci-1, to increase applications of innovative methodologies in Earth observation and in the wider spatial context. The agreement is an expression of the vision of the company which aims to strengthen the research activities carried out through the Leonardo Labs network - the company's network of laboratories oriented towards the digital sphere - and the consolidation of the open innovation activities they represent, both, determined factors of growth and competitiveness ".

“The future of the Earth is increasingly linked to Space. Strengthening the ability to analyze, process and enhance the data from observation satellites is essential for environmental sustainability, for the improvement of life on our planet and for its protection, as well as offering important opportunities in the Space Economy " declared Luigi Pasquali, Coordinator of Leonardo's space activities and Chief Executive Officer of Telespazio. “The collaboration between Leonardo Labs and ESA's Φ-lab will accelerate the development of new solutions in this area, leveraging innovative infrastructures and specialists from the European Space Agency and Leonardo, Telespazio and e-GEOS. A multidisciplinary team, with skills ranging from engineering and computer science applied to the management of complex systems such as satellites and fleets of drones, to mathematics and physics for the analysis of acquired data and the development of applications ".