Space-borne sensing on the rise for green applications

6 October

Illustration of satellite orbiting earth

A new joint study by the EPO, ESA and ESPI reveals rapid growth of
patent filings (2001-2021) in space-borne sensing and green applications. Remote sensing can be broadly defined as gathering data on
an area or phenomenon via a remote device. Remote sensing via satellites in
space can reveal long-term environmental trends, detect illegal activities,
monitor industrial and agricultural production, and provide early warning in
support of national security.

This study spotlights the use of space-borne sensing as an
indispensable tool for effectively implementing green policies and objectives.
These range from applications of remote sensing data to support the mitigation
of climate change, forecast weather, detect pollution, protect biodiversity, and
monitor the environment. The analysis of global patent filing statistics
highlighted the following key trends:

  • Filings in green applications of space-borne sensing increased by 1 800% in
    2020 versus 2001 (cf. 400% growth in global patent filings in all technology fields).
  • Chinese applicants submit the highest number patent filings (mainly domestic),
    while U.S. applicants lead in international filings.
  • Majority of
    patent applications related to signal processing (software rather than
  • Patenting in Europe is stagnating, with most filings from France, Germany,
    and the UK.

Figure 1

Space-borne sensing technologies also
play a crucial part in supporting the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development. By tracking patenting activity relating to 10 selected
sustainable development goals (SDGs), the study offers an indicator of how
innovation is helping society to meet these goals. The US leads the innovative
contribution to SDGs for internationally filed patent families.

Figure 2

by sustained public and private investment, the widespread use of space-borne
sensing to tackle major social challenges looks set to fuel continued growth in
patent filings in the future.


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