Glasgow tech start-up to count elephants from space as part of major conservation project

A Scottish start-up has landed a European Space Agency contract to count elephants from space.

Glasgow-based Eolas Insight is taking the lead in a project that will utilise its technology to help conservationists count African elephants.

The CivTech alumni company is working with partner, Peace Parks Foundation, and has received funding from the European Space Agency to conduct the animal censuses, using satellites.

Eolas will use artificial intelligence and high-resolution satellite imagery to detect elephants roaming across vast areas of a national park in southern Mozambique.

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The firm is working with fellow Glasgow tech start-up Omanos Analytics, which uses downstream satellite data analysis and on-the-ground intelligence to improve transparency and reduce risk around the social and environmental impacts of critical infrastructure projects.

The work of Eolas Insight is based on previous projects the firm conducted with NatureScot as part of the CivTech accelerator programme in 2020, which used similar techniques to monitor Scotland’s wild red deer.

That project combined imagery collected by satellite and light aircraft to detect the animals. It is hoped that in future it will offer a greener and cheaper alternative to helicopter-based counts.

Eolas managing director, Doug McNeil, said: “Technology can play a key role in tackling what is arguably the biggest challenge facing humankind - conservation and the climate crisis. Detecting animals in satellite imagery will have its place in preservation projects of the future, and we are incredibly excited to be the first UK company to demonstrate this capability.

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Glasgow-based Eolas Insight is taking the lead in a project that will utilise its technology to help conservationists count African elephants.

“It was through the CivTech accelerator experience that we were able to refine this process by working closely with NatureScot to develop the use of satellite imagery to track animals. It’s exciting for us to continue to develop this on a larger scale and work in new markets with proven technology.

“In the future through work with the Geovation programme run by Registers of Scotland and Ordnance Survey, we will create a web-based platform for allowing the user direct access to our methodology algorithms.”

He added: “There are so many hugely powerful new technologies available for environmental professionals and ecologists, however accessing these technologies can be a job in itself.”

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