Hang on a minute - isn't the European Space Agency a bunch of astronauts and rocket scientists? What does ESA have to do with app development?

From space, our planet's atmosphere, land, and water can be monitored for multiple application fields. This is where the Space App Camp comes into play: It's a chance to make the resulting information accessible to a broad audience and create value in the process!

For the fifth time, ESA invited 20 developers to its ESRIN location in Frascati, Italy (covering travel expenses and accommodation).

The Space App Camp is a unique opportunity for app developers to meet with like-minded people, create mobile applications using satellite data, and gain insight into ESA's work.

The goal of the Space App Camp is to produce mobile apps using Earth observation data on smartphones. In doing so, it focuses on leveraging the possibilities offered by the European Earth observation programme Copernicus, which became operational with the launch of the first Sentinel Satellite in April 2014.

ESA provided access to satellite data for the development of mobile applications (Android and iOS) in five predefined categories. A dedicated API made it easy for participants to integrate Earth observation data into their apps. To take part in the Space App Camp, participants didn't need any experience in integrating such data, as professional help was provided onsite.

Participants were able to choose their preferred category and apply either alone or in teams of two, or four. All selected candidates will then be grouped into teams of four.

The Space App Camp is organised by Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO) on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Topics & Data

Participants could indicate their preference in their application:

Agriculture is the cornerstone of the world's food supply. It faces several challenges, however, from increasing soil strain, the availability of water, and extreme weather conditions to unsustainable farming practices. Farmers are often forced to overcome difficulties due to water shortages, expensive fertilisers and other chemical products, which also have a negative impact on the environment. Here, Earth observation satellites allow for detailed, large-scale mapping of agricultural activities. This includes crop distribution and condition, the calculation of optimal planting and harvesting dates, and early-warning activities related to food security.

The Copernicus satellites support the timely, accurate monitoring of current agricultural land use and changes therein, as well as the forecasting and identification of food security crises at the regional and national levels in Europe and around the world. Satellite-based imagery can also be helpful in pinpointing problematic areas and facilitating surveys of specific hotspots, such as by comparing different years to highlight trend anomalies. Meanwhile, integrating this data into agronomic models makes it possible to forecast crop yields, which is key in anticipating market fluctuations - and thus in dealing with crises in food supplies and prices - at the continental and global levels.

Environmental Protection
The data delivered by the Copernicus programme is extremely useful in every area of environmental protection, from status quo assessments to the sustainable management of valuable resources. It constantly monitors land, atmospheric, and ocean environments and provides timely, accurate information on the state of our planet. This information can in turn be used to support applications in many different domains, including forestry management, air quality, or oil spill detection. Spills from vessels, offshore platforms, and oil pipelines severely pollute marine and coastal habitats, causing enormous damage to the natural environment and the economy. Rapid detection and early warnings of marine oil spills enable regional and national coastal authorities to catch polluters in the act of illegal waste dumping and to respond quickly to large accidental spills. Monitoring large sea areas from the air is time-consuming, expensive, and usually not feasible for pollution detection authorities. One satellite image can capture more than 100,000 square kilometres of sea surface, making this a very efficient way to check for oil spills.

Copernicus provides satellite-based services to efficiently detect illicit discharges, identify polluters, and track the evolution of oil spills.

Lifestyle, Tourism, and Health
Of the multitude of factors influencing the health of humans, many are of environmental origin. Satellite-derived data helps to monitor these environmental factors, forecast their development and take corresponding measures when necessary. As populations grow and urbanisation increases, air pollution is one example of a phenomenon that is having a major effect on human health. In light of the adverse ramifications of air pollution, the ability to monitor, assess, and forecast pollutants from a global scale down to individual cities is fundamental. The Sentinel satellites are capable of measuring the most important air pollutants and providing large-scale information on their distribution in a cost-effective manner.

By contributing to air quality monitoring and forecasts across Europe, Copernicus supports European policies designed to protect human health.

The Copernicus programme collects environmental data on the land, sea, and air, all of which are important to tourism and leisure applications. Meanwhile, the growing tourism industry and the increasing use of environmental apps on smartphones are lending increasing relevance to this application field. For instance, the Copernicus satellites provide information on water quality in swimming locations in near-real time. This data covers a number of parameters related to water quality status - including sea surface temperature, transparency or turbidity and ocean colour measurements - which enable eutrophication assessments and the detection of harmful algal blooms.

The Copernicus satellites monitor the atmosphere to deliver data on air quality and UV radiation, as well, both of which not only have an impact on our health, but also play a vital role in tourism. Together with the Copernicus programme's in-situ data, corresponding services make it possible to forecast the distribution of pollutants and the intensity of UV radiation. The Copernicus space programme provides data for every relevant field of tourism and leisure, which promotes the development of new applications for end-users in Europe and around the world.

Smart Cities
More than 50% of the global population lives in urban areas at present, and this percentage is expected to rise in the coming years. With increasing urbanisation, cities are facing significant planning challenges (in waste management, the exploitation of renewable energies, and more) that can have a major impact on quality of life. At the same time, the areas surrounding cities are also being affected by changes in the way land is used. Satellites present tremendous potential in helping design more sustainable cities. The global population continues to rise, placing demands on critical infrastructure and increasing the need for sustainable development across the world's cities. Smart city initiatives offer a way to reduce this burden and improve quality of life. The Copernicus Land Monitoring Service, for example, makes use of satellite data to provide geographical information on land cover and land-surface temperature, which supports applications in areas such as spatial and urban planning. Earth observation imagery can also be combined with in-situ data (e.g. near-real or real-time information on traffic, pollution, social behaviour, crowdsourced data, and city development) to create an innovative product or service.

Transport and Logistics
Since solid transport services and a working infrastructure are key to assuring unrestricted movement, they constitute an important sector of the economy. The development of transport networks brings significant benefits to citizens, but often has negative effects on the environment. The future challenge for carriers, governments, and local authorities will thus involve meeting the increasing demand for transport while reducing harmful environmental impacts. The Sentinel satellites are capable of monitoring a multitude of environmental parameters that are relevant in the sustainable optimisation of transportation networks and the expansion of infrastructure. The data Copernicus provides can support public authorities and carriers in implementing measures designed to meet future demand. In the case of maritime transport, one of Copernicus' many application fields lies in supporting ship routing services by providing information on currents and sea ice. Meanwhile, the programme also aids in infrastructure maintenance by identifying areas at risk of subsidence and ground movements that are likely to destabilise buildings, bridges or roads. Copernicus supports governments in finding sustainable solutions to the increasing demand for transport, logistics and infrastructure.

ESA will provide access to satellite data for the development of mobile applications (Android and iOS) in five predefined categories. A dedicated API will make it easy for you to integrate Earth observation data into your app. To take part in the Space App Camp, you didn't need any experience in integrating such data.


Participation in the Space App Camp was open to any app developer of adult age with citizenship in the following countries: the ESA member-states, states involved in the Copernicus Space Component (CSC), and countries participating in the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Community.

Participants could register either as teams of two or four or as individuals. At least one of the team members needed to be an impassioned app developer. All participants will be grouped into teams of four prior to the event.


After a week of intense teamwork in the selected category, the teams presented their apps to the other participants and a jury of ESA representatives on the final day of the Space App Camp. In addition to a unique coding experience with like-minded people, satellite data and insight into ESA's work, the winning team was rewarded with a cash prize worth EUR 2,500.


Participants with citizenship in an ESA member-state, a state involved in the Copernicus Space Component (CSC), or a country participating in the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Community were welcome to join, but as always, some rules applied.

 Download rules (PDF)