The Grenoble University Space Centre begins development of a smart nanosatellite for Earth observation

News release
On  April 14, 2020
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Develop and launch a nanosatellite using artificial intelligence algorithms to observe the Earth and meet social challenges such as observation of illegal deforestation, monitoring of CO2 emissions or evaluation of damages after a natural disaster: This is the objective of the nanosatellite project QlevEr Sat developed in Grenoble. The project is lead by CSUG1 in collaboration with the MIAI-UGA institute, with the support of the Teledyne E2V company. The launch is planned for Q1-Q2 2022.
QlevEr Sat, to be pronounced “Clever Sat” for smart satellite, will boast a camera and a high performance processor in order to process on board, in space, the images recorded by the camera. This processing will be done using artificial intelligence algorithms. Embedding the AI directly into the satellite to process from space the recorded data will drastically limit the needed band pass for communications between the Earth and the satellite: only the results of the analysis will be transmitted instead of the full images. Considering that the number of satellites in operation continues to increase exponentially, crowding the radio frequencies available for communications, the choice of the embedded processor is fundamental. It however needs to understand technological and scientific key points: The embedded processor needs to show high performance, high robustness and near full autonomy. The AI algorithms must be adapted to this specific environment. For a higher flexibility and representativness of the demonstration, the parameters of the algorithms will be reconfigurable from Earth and sent to the satellite, allowing a more precise adaptation to the needs and to the evolutions of the AI knowledge. The system will be under full CSUG control from the optical detector to the processor. These two components will be provided by Teledyne E2V, while the conception of AI algorithms will be done by the MIAI program, each element lead by CSUG, which has a strong experience in leading similar space projects.

This smart nanosatellite will thus have the capacity to process data from space with the objective of Earth observation (oceans, rivers, forests, polar regions, urban or desert zone) for societal challenges such as the observation of the deforestation in Brazil city growth or natural hazard management (prevention, alert, damage evaluation). The challenge lies in using a robust processor in space, which will allow data analysis of a high performance imager in a small volume with a low power consumption. Most recent algorithms using AI will be integrated in this processor. Their conception will have to integrate all these constraints and guarantee the required performance for the different use cases. This will be done in close collaboration between MIAI institute, especially the “AI and environment” program, and CSUG.
The Teledyne E2V company, already supporting CSUG since 2016, signed in March 2020 a new sponsorship agreement with the UGA Foundation to bring significant support to this project, which is planned to be launched in early 2022.



The Grenoble University Space Centre

The CSUG groups together the NewSpace activities of Université Grenoble Alpes and Grenoble INP-UGA. It aims to develop miniature space instruments adapted to nanosatellites, develop training for students in the industry by involving students in space projects, and unite academic stakeholders and industrialists in the industry. By bringing on board some 120 students every year from all disciplines and all levels, it educates students on developments in the space industry with a focus on space instruments and data use. The CSUG is developing six space instruments for fields as varied as space weather, quantum communication and Earth observation. The CSUG is supported in its activities by six industrial sponsors, Air Liquide, Teledyne e2v, Nicomatic, Lynred, Gorgy Timing, NPC SYSTEM and EDF.

Fondation Université Grenoble Alpes, connecting explorers and leaders

Fondation Université Grenoble Alpes brings together its unprecedented strengths for a dynamic, humanist future. It forges the link between imagination, ambition and experience. It facilitates a meeting of minds and helps develop links between ideas, people and businesses. By creating and implementing sponsorship partnerships for general interest projects, it federates businesses, teacher-researchers and students in order to support strategic initiatives at their universities, support the exceptional projects of these students and add to the dynamism of their local areas. Fondation UGA has supported the CSUG since its creation in 2015, enabling partnerships between the CSUG and Air Liquide, Teledyne e2v, ST Microelectronics, Lynred, Nicomatic ,Gorgy Timing, NPC SYSTEM and EDF.

Institut MIAI-UGA

MIAI, Grenoble's interdisciplinary institute for Artificial Intelligence, develops the new generation of AI models and systems, from hardware and embedded architectures to software, with a particular focus on health, environment and energy, and industry 4.0. MIAI also studies how AI is perceived by our society and the legal and ethical issues raised by the increasing use of AI tools. More than 60 industrial partners, more than 500 people, both industrial and academic, are collaborating on these different aspects. A dedicated program also aims to create, each year, new startups in AI-related fields. MIAI also offers courses in AI, open to students of all levels and professionals, which can lead to qualifications in AI and its fields of application. Finally, MIAI wishes to engage in an ongoing dialogue with society on all aspects of AI.

Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA)

Thoroughly rooted in its local area, multi-disciplinary and international, UGA's scope has changed in 2020. It now brings together Grenoble INP, Sciences Po Grenoble, the Grenoble School of Architecture, and units of the former Université Grenoble Alpes, including the Institut National Supérieur du Professorat et de l’Education de l'Académie de Grenoble (INSPE), and includes the services of the Comue UGA. 60,000 students, including 9,000 international students and over 3,000 PhD students and 7,500 staff are spread across the various campuses, primarily in the agglomerations of Grenoble and Valence. The national research bodies CEA, CNRS, INRIA and INSERM will now work even more with Université Grenoble Alpes to develop a common policy for research and development on an international scale. Relations with the INRAE, IRD and the CHU Grenoble Alpes university hospital have also been strengthened by the creation of this new university.

Grenoble INP – UGA

Grenoble INP, Institute of Engineering and Management, is a higher education and research public establishment. It provides education within its eight schools to creative, responsible students committed to developing a sustainable world to meet the social challenges of the future. Grenoble INP-UGA develops its training programs in synergy with high-level research laboratories steered jointly with the site's university partners and research bodies, and has for many years developed close links with the socio-economic world, enabling it to anticipate the needs of and skills required by businesses.

Press contact

Muriel Jakobiak-Fontana
Deputy director of communications - Université Grenoble Alpes
Tel : +33 (0)4 76 51 44 98 / mob : +33 (0)6 71 06 92 26
Published on  April 14, 2020
Updated on  November 16, 2021