Spinning Python in Green Spaces

2016 map of green spaces in Plymouth, using Sentinel-2 data courtesy of Copernicus/ESA.

2016 map of green spaces in Plymouth, using Sentinel-2 data courtesy of Copernicus/ESA.

As students, we are forever encouraged to find work experience to develop our real-life skills and enhance our CV’s. During the early period of my second year I was thinking about possible work experience for the following summer. Thanks to my University department, I was able to find the Space Placements in INdustry (SPIN) scheme. SPIN has been running for 4 years now, advertising short summer placements at host companies. These provide a basis for which students with degrees involving maths/physics/computer science can get an insight into the thriving space sector. I chose to apply to Pixalytics, and three months later they accepted my application in late March.

Fast forward a few more months and I was on the familiar train down to Plymouth in my home county of Devon. Regardless of your origin, living in a new place never fails to confuse, but with perseverance, I managed to settle in quickly. In the same way I could associate my own knowledge from my degree (such as atmospheric physics, and statistics) to the subject of remote sensing, a topic which I had not previously learnt about. Within a few days I was at work on my own projects learning more on the way.

My first task was an informal investigation into Open data that Plymouth City Council (PCC) has recently uploaded onto the web. PCC are looking for ways to create and support innovative business ideas that could potentially use open data. Given their background, Pixalytics could see the potential in developing this. I used the PCC’s green space, nature reserve and neighbourhood open data sets and found a way to calculate areas of green space in Plymouth using Landsat/Sentinel 2 satellite data to provide a comparison.

Sentinel-2 Image of Plymouth from 2016. Data courtesy of Copernicus/ESA.

Sentinel-2 Image of Plymouth from 2016. Data courtesy of Copernicus/ESA.

There were a few challenges to overcome in using the multiple PCC data sets as they had different coordinate reference systems, which needed to be consistent to be used in GIS software. For example, the Nature Reserves data set was partly in WGS84 and partly in OSGB 1936. Green space is in WGS 84 and the neighbourhood boundaries are in OSGB 1936. This meant that after importing these data sets in GIS software, they wouldn’t line up. Also, the green space data set didn’t include landmarks such as the disused Plymouth City airport, and large areas around Derriford Hospital and Ernsettle. Using GIS software I then went on to find a way to classify and calculate areas of green space within the Plymouth city boundary. The Sentinel-2 which can be seen above, has a higher spatial resolution and allowed me to include front and back gardens.

My green space map for 2016 created from Sentinel 2 data is the most accurate, and gives a total area of green space within the Plymouth neighbourhood boundary of 43 square kilometres, compared with 28 square kilometres that PCC have designated within their dataset. There are some obvious explainable differences, but it would be interesting to explore this deeper.

My second project was to write computer code for the processing and mosaicking of Landsat Imagery. Pixalytics is developing products where the user can select an area of interest from a global map, and these can cause difficult if the area crosses multiple images. My work was to make these images as continuous as possible, accounting for the differences in radiances.

I ended up developing a Python package, some of whose functions include obtaining the WRS path and row from an inputted Latitude and Longitude, correcting for the difference in radiances, and clipping and merging multiple images. There is also code that helps reduce the visual impact of clouds on individual images by using the quality band of the Landsat 8 product. This project took up most of my time, however I don’t think readers would appreciate, yet alone read a 500 line python script, so this has been left out.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Andrew and Samantha for giving me an insight into this niche, and potentially lucrative area of science as it has given me some direction and motivation for the last year of my degree. I hope I’ve provided some useful input to Pixalytics (even if it is just giving Samantha a very long winded Python lesson), because they certainly have done with me!

 

Blog written by:
Miles Lemmer, SPIN Summer Placement student.
BSc. Environmental Physics, University of Reading.

Footprints in Remote Sensing

Plymouth Sound on 25th July 2014 from Landsat 8: Image courtesy of USGS/NASA Landsat

Plymouth Sound on 25th July 2014 from Landsat 8: Image courtesy of USGS/NASA Landsat

I’ve just finished my summer with Pixalytics! As I wrote a blog when I first arrived, I thought it would be nice symmetry to finish my ERASMUS+ placement with a second one.

When I started my internship, I had very little real-world experience. I was really excited and really nervous, but this internship has been a huge eye opener for me. I spent the first week understanding and reviewing the practicals within Pixalytics’ forthcoming book ‘The Practical Handbook of Remote Sensing’ to check for any errors prior to publication, which gave me a good understanding of the basics of remote sensing.

Over the next few weeks I applied my new knowledge to finding and downloading Landsat data for a commercial client. I then downloaded additional Landsat datasats and compared them to altimetry datasets to look for patterns between the two sources for the NovaSAR project. My other main job was processing Landsat 8 data to create a UK-wide vegetation mosaic. This needed cloud free images which is really difficult because the weather in UK is always cloudy, even in summer!

Plymouth is a deeply captivating city with astonishingly magnificent views and landscapes. You get the urban city, fantastic scenery and all around Plymouth are nice beaches, cities and the Dartmoor National Park which is always worth a visit. It’s a safe quiet place where everything is so close together that you can walk everywhere. The people are generally friendly and warm-hearted, and the experience of living in the Plymouth for two months has helped me to gain a more fluent level of English and a better understanding of the British culture – I now know why they constantly talk about the weather!

Overall, I’ve learnt a lot from the internship including practical skills that I will be able to carry with me to my next position. Needless to say, I will miss Pixalytics and Plymouth very dearly, and I’m thankful for the chance to work and live there. ERASMUS+ is an great opportunity that everyone should try to be part of, and I totally recommend going abroad because is an experience that stays with you to rest of your life.

Bye Plymouth, Bye Pixalytics!

Selin

Blog by Selin Cakaloglu, Erasmus+ Intern at Pixalytics

First Small Steps in Remote Sensing

The International Space Station is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, Woodford, VA.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The International Space Station is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, Woodford, VA. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

It’s not often you get given the opportunity to travel, live in an exciting new city and get an incredible internship all in one. So when I heard about the Erasmus+ Programme I applied right away! I wanted to gain more experience in remote sensing.

When I was little I had a very big poster of the moon surface hung on my wall, it had so much detail and I would stare at it every night before I went to bed. After my parents bought my first computer, I started to search for more images of the moon and other planets and I was impressed by the complexity of what I found. This was the beginning of my fascination with remote sensing. When it came to choosing my career path, it was not hard. I knew what I wanted to become and now it sounds, and feels, right to call myself a Geomatics Engineer.

I’m currently studying two undergraduate degrees in Surveying, and Civil Engineering; but it was still hard to find an Erasmus work placement for remote sensing. I managed to find the Pixalytics Ltd with my teacher’s help, as he had previously met Dr Samantha Lavender.

After finding a place to do your internship the rest is should be easy, but not for United Kingdom. Getting my work permit from British Council was a really challenging process, and took me exactly three months. Despite doing everything right, getting responses to my emails for sponsorship was hard. It was the most awful part of the process for me, because there was nothing I could do except wait. Finally, after a lot of patience my visa arrived and I was on my way to Plymouth!

The last issue, and some people’s main concern, is getting accommodation. I did not find it hard to find a place to stay because most of the students were out of town. With a basic search on the internet I found a flat in four days, it is based a few hundred metres from the centre of Plymouth and close to the bus route to Pixalytics.

I thought I had read and traveled enough to be prepared when I stepped off the plane in London, but it was still a shock standing alone with my suitcase and hearing all the British accents around me. At first, it was difficult to adapt to the language as the accents are sometimes hard to understand. But once I’d grasped the pronunciation, I believe I’m improving every week.

Working at Pixalytics will be my first internship experience, and I am so grateful to Samantha Lavender for giving me this opportunity. Working abroad will be a memory and lesson in itself but I hope to also I hope to enhance my discipline and knowledge as well as applying my existing engineering and personal skills.

Getting my internship was a long, difficult and exhausting process, but I realized that it’s totally worth it as soon as I got to Plymouth, If anyone is thinking of applying to the Erasmus+ programme, I would totally recommend it!

Blog by Selin Cakaloglu, Erasmus+ Intern at Pixalytics

Student Placements at a Micro Business

With the end of the academic year in sight, many students and organisations will be thinking about work placements or summer internships. Hosting work placement students for microbusinesses and SME’s is hugely rewarding, and challenging, for both parties. At Pixalytics we’ve just finished hosting our first 8 week work placement student, Bryony Hanlon, from Plymouth University and so between us we’ve put together this blog to give both prospective placement students and host organisations some ideas of the things you need to think about before you get started:

Students
For students we’ve listed four questions an organisation might ask before deciding whether to offer a placement. Remember while getting a placement seems the most difficult part, spending time making sure the placement is well planned and structured will give you and the employer the best outcome.

  1. Why do you want to do a placement with us? This may sound obvious, but before you ask for a placement, make sure you know why you want to do it with that company specifically and what you want to gain from it!
  2. Why did you apply to us in particular? During your research you should have identified the most relevant organisations; they may be completing a project that is of particular interest to you, offer practical experience to develop a particular skill, or may offer experience of a particular type or organisation, such as consultancy. It’s really important to know this with a micro-business as they may only operate in a niche area, or they may only have one or two projects they are working on. If you want to gain particular experience or skills, make sure the business can support that.
  3. How would the placement help to support your future career development? Make sure your CV sells your skills and demonstrates a clear career path or area of interest. Highlight any practical experience, paid work and volunteering. Tell the employer what you want to gain from the placement by specifying the kind of projects you would like to work on or activities that you would like to be involved with.
  4. What time commitment can you offer us? Outline your availability but be realistic, especially if you also have a part time job or volunteering responsibilities. Again vital for a micro-business as they may have to bend or alter their work patterns to support the placement; which generally can be done with planning.

Employers
The focus for employers is a little different; while students may be keen, you still need to lead the placement. This can be challenging for a micro business, with everything else you have to keep on top of. Things to consider:

  1. Can you physically host a placement student? It’s obvious, but do they have somewhere to sit? Do they need access to IT facilities, door access swipe cards, security clearance, parking permits or any specific training or equipment?
  2. How will you supervise the student and who will undertake this? You need to be clear who is supervising the student and they need to have the time, skills and willingness to do it – this is key to the success of the placement. For micros and SME’s this dedicated time can be difficult with workloads, but remember students can work independently, you don’t have to be with them all the time and some support and supervision can be done by email or skype; but not everything. You need to meet the student regularly to discuss progress and support them through the work.
  3. How will the student benefit your organisation? This is vital for the micro and SME employer; you need to make the most of opportunity you have. Can the student work on a project that you don’t have time to do, are they assisting in you with a specific piece of work or do they have skills you don’t have that you can utilise? Also remember, a great student could make a future great employee – you have to impress them too!
  4. How will you manage performance during the placement? Be clear at the start what outcome you’re expecting – is it a written report, project completed, research done or sales generated. Agree realistic goals and communicate throughout the placement, weekly monitoring and feedback meetings are great.

A successful placement should benefit employers and the students, as well as helping to boost your organisation’s reputation. We’ve benefited greatly from what Bryony has done over the last couple of months, and the outcome of her work will influence the way our company develops over the coming months and years. So if you’re a micro or SME thinking about taking on a student this year, we’d say go for it!

Blog produced by Bryony Hanlon, Work Placement student at Pixalytics, and Andy Lavender, Director at Pixalytics.