Centre for Law and the Environment

Centre for Law and the Environment:
Satellites and the Law

UCL Research in Satellites and the Law

Smart Enforcement in Environmental Legal Systems: A Socio-Legal Analysis of Regulatory Satellite Monitoring in Australia
Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (April 2009 – September 2010)

In April 2009, the Centre for Law and the Environment, Faculty of Laws (UCL) won a major funded research contract from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) worth £182,000. This research which will run until September 2010, will assesses the opportunities and challenges of using satellites to monitor and enforce environmental laws, drawing on experiences in Australia. This will be the first substantive project purely examining the operational effectiveness of using satellites in an environmental regulatory context. This research investigates the operational effectiveness of monitoring this way and will look at Australian experiences by examining practice and conducting interviews with key actors to help determine lessons learnt in terms of successes and constraints.

Surveys amongst regulated communities in Australia will be conducted to examine awareness and reactions to being monitored by satellites and to test whether knowledge of being monitored this way is likely to influence compliance behaviour. This research will consider the experiences of those being monitored this way and analyse both benefits there might be to farmers (such as consistent enforcement) as well as concerns (if they consider the technology is not used properly).

Funded by esrc logo

Satellite Monitoring as a Legal Compliance Tool in the Environment Sector
Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (October 2005 – December 2008)

In October 2005, the Centre for Law and the Environment, Faculty of Laws (UCL) won a major funded research contract from the Arts and Humanities Research Council worth £308,000. This research which was completed in December 2008 was concerned with the potential for using new developments in satellite technology for monitoring and enforcing national, European Community and international laws in the environmental sector. The research was conducted in Laws by Ray Purdy and Professor Richard Macrory, with the co-operation of Professor Ray Harris in the Remote Sensing Unit in the Department of Geography (UCL).

The project explored the potential and significance of employing satellite monitoring data as a compliance tool, in the context of step-changes in the resolution capabilities, geographical coverage, and costs of the technology that are currently taking place. This research drew upon national and international experience to date and assess the opportunities that may be provided to address limitations in conventional inspection and enforcement regimes.

Funded by

Data Policy Assessment for GMES (DPAG)
Sponsor: European Commission (2002 – 2004)

Professor Ray Harris of the Department of Geography, UCL, coordinated the DPAG project, which was sponsored by the European Commission. It was essential for the success of GMES that the various information supplied to an eventual operational system can be integrated together. An obstacle to this integration is the variety of data policies that condition access to the data. DPAG documented the data policies of the variety of information foreseen for GMES, Identified the obstacles, and made recommendations on actions to improve data policy coherence.

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Satellites and the Law – An Analysis of Current Centres of Excellence
Sponsor: British National Space Centre (March 2003 – October 2003)

Although there are pockets of expertise in the UK in space law, there is as yet no dedicated specialised centre. The main aim of this project was to examine the activities of Centres of Excellence in space law with a focus on Europe, and report on courses that are being offered and core research activities and sources of funding. One of the issues that was explored was the feasibility of such a Centre in the UK, and how it could complement the activities of other European Centre's.

Earth Observation in the Legal Sector
Sponsor: British National Space Centre (2000-2001)

This study for the British National Space Centre (with the British Institute for International and Comparative Law, Nigel Press Associates, and DJ Freeman solicitors) analysed the applicability of earth observation satellite data across a range of legal issues involving geographical dimensions, including land use planning law, international environmental law and international boundary disputes.

Tanker Oil SpillA ship near the lower left corner of the image is seen on the satellite image to be discharging the oil into the sea – the plume is 5 km in length. (Copyright ESA 1996)
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ApertureSponsor: European Commission – Joint Research Centre (1998 –2000)
This major European sponsored project involving both technical and legal experts examined the potential for using satellite generated images in the enforcement of environmental laws. It particularly focussed on the admissibility of satellite evidence in national and European courts.

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EOPOLE – Earth Observation Data Policy and Europe
Sponsor: European Commission (1998 – 2000)

The European Commission sponsored a concerted action project under Framework IV entitled Earth Observation Data Policy and Europe (EOPOLE). The project manager was Professor Ray Harris of the Department of Geography, University College London, and the EOPOLE team was drawn from the academic, industry and government sectors in Europe. The primary objectives of the EOPOLE concerted action project were to review and coordinate relevant European national research in Earth observation data policy with a strong user perspective; and to identify and recommend improvements to Earth observation data policy with a distinctly European perspective in order to provide better conditions for the expansion of the Earth observation sector.

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For further information about these projects please contact Ray Purdy at raymond.purdy@ucl.ac.uk