ESA title

Artificial Intelligence Kick-Start

  • Activity Kick-start Activity
  • Opening date 13-05-2019
  • Closing date 29-11-2019

* Please note the deadlines are different for each AI macro-area (see opening and closing dates below).


Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. It is sometimes called ‘machine intelligence’, since the intelligence is demonstrated by machines, and differs from natural intelligence, which is displayed by humans and other animals. The term is applied to systems endowed with the intellectual processes typical of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalise, or learn from past experience. 


The following topics are non-exhaustive examples of areas relevant to the theme of artificial intelligence. They can benefit from using integrated terrestrial and space-based technologies. 

Retail: Understanding customer behaviour is crucial in retail. However, datasets on customer journeys and shopping experiences are often so big, that companies struggle to analyse the information sufficiently. E-commerce platforms could implement self-learning algorithms to correlate external factors, like satellite data about weather and the environment, with customer information like click data and search habits. For example, AI could analyse georeferenced satellite data about detected cars in parking lots and merge it with past transactions, website searches and weather forecasts to predict future sales.  

Electric Utility:  Transmission System Operators (TSOs) and Distribution System Operators (DSOs) must match energy supply to energy demand, avoiding overload and power cuts. AI could add benefit by helping to balance the grid by improving forecasts. The forecast of congestion, network losses, and the possible need for reserve power are other motivating factors for TSOs and DSOs to adopt AI. Wave energy power owners and developers would benefit from analysing waves and tide patterns to predict the best locations to install wave-to-energy machines. Wind and solar power owners and developers could use AI systems in similar ways to predict wind speeds and directions, and solar irradiance respectively.

Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics: Factories and manufacturing plants will benefit in several ways by adopting AI. These systems could shorten development cycles, improve engineering efficiency, prevent faults, increase safety by automating risky activities, reduce inventory costs with better supply and demand planning, and increase revenue with better sales lead identification and price optimization. 

Healthcare: The idea of leveraging medical and social data to better manage costs has made forecasting one of the few areas of active AI applications in health care, attracting top tech, pharma, and medical players as well as small start-ups.  Genomics could offer novel market opportunities when combined with AI and satellite technologies. 

Social good: AI for social good aims at utilising AI to make an impact on issues faced by societies. As such, the sustainability and business models build on a concerted effort involving private and institutional / public sectors, investing in medium to long term programmes steered towards delivering benefits to citizens. For instance, in the area of urban planning, urban planners will benefit substantially from V2I AI systems, which would provide insights into traffic, accidents, congestions, construction and parking. This could aid planners with the design of cities.


  • 30/04/2019 (11:00 CEST) Consumer goods, business and industrial services (OPENING DATE 13th May 2019 -  CLOSING DATE 21st June) 
  • 12/06/2019 (11:00 CEST) Social Impact (OPENING DATE 25th June 2019 - CLOSING DATE 30th August)
  • 28/08/2019 (11:00 CEST) Infrastructure (OPENING DATE 2nd September 2019 - CLOSING DATE 11th October)
  • 01/10/2019 (11:00 CEST) Environment and natural resources (OPENING DATE 14th October 2019 - CLOSING DATE 29th November)


There is substantial promise for AI techniques across industries in terms of both practical applications and economic potential.  

Earth Observation (EO)  

Satellite imagery can be used e.g. to monitor urban areas to detect traffic for improved urban planning and routing, to distinguish vehicles near shops, and to map terrain features near power towers. Specialised meteorological data obtained from EO satellites, such as wind speed and direction, or humidity, can help in renewable energy prediction, in establishing weather patterns to optimise fuel consumption on planes and in the automated docking of ships. EO data can also provide contextual data,  e.g. the presence of human activities, or the distribution of households, which can be used to help detect energy theft. Finally, EO can be used to provide a large scale picture of environmental factors relevant to conservation and education programmes. 

Satellite Communications (Satcom) 

Satcom can provide reliable communication infrastructure for different data speed, latency, and traffic needs. Satcom can be used to transfer data to and from remote locations where there is no terrestrial network, or where terrestrial networks are not yet operative; this includes Satcom based Internet of Things (IoT)/ Machine-to-Machine Communication (M2M), connecting networks of sensors used to monitor equipment and to improve condition-based maintenance operations. Furthermore, Satcom may be used to increase communication network robustness and resilience in case of potential terrorist or cyber-attacks targeting terrestrial communications. 

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) 

GNSS systems provide precise positioning and guidance. GNSS data can support tracing and tracking, improved logistics, geo-tagging of in-situ data and route optimization for AI applications in most of the terrestrial verticals identified. In addition, GNSS provides geo-localisation for social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) and internet (e.g. Google Trends) data that can be used as inputs to AI-based models, for instance to infer customers’ buying trends and provide short to medium term market projections.

Additional Technologies

Several other technologies could also be relevant to the services that bidders may propose. Some of these are outlined below.

Satcom-supported  Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) technologies and devices could complement AI applications. For example, maintenance crew on boats, or workers in remote regions fixing power lines, could use VR/AR goggles instructing them to fix equipment. Operatives would be able to multitask and could handle equipment without the need to also handle physical instruction manuals

RPAS can be used as a complementary solution for monitoring purposes (e.g. for electricity network devices status, or urban planning), complementing EO images and in-situ sensors.


Kick-start Activities elaborate the business opportunity and the technical viability of new applications and services exploiting one or more space assets (e.g. Satellite Communications, Satellite Navigation, Earth Observation, Human Space Flight Technology). This call for Kick-start Activities is dedicated to the theme “Artificial Intelligence", which means that the call is open to companies that intend to develop sustainable products and services combining AI with space technology. The field of applications is not limited to the topics mentioned in the previous section.

The AI kick start is organised around specific macro-areas for which dedicated calls will be issued, as follows:

1) Consumer goods, business and industrial services (OPENING DATE 13th May 2019 -  CLOSING DATE 21st June).

2) Social Impact (OPENING DATE 25th June 2019 - CLOSING DATE 30th August).

3) Infrastructure (OPENING DATE 2nd September 2019 - CLOSING DATE 11th October).

4) Environment and natural resources (OPENING DATE 14th October 2019 - CLOSING DATE 29th November).


1. Register by completing the online questionnaire on ESA-STAR Registration (minimum ‘light registration’).

2. Download the official tender documentation, which will be made available in EMITS by May 14th 2019. The call EMITS reference is AO9889.

3. Write your proposal and obtain a Letter of Support from your National Delegation, if needed (see Authorisation of Funding section below).

4. Submit your proposal via ESA-STAR Tendering. Deadlines are different for each AI macro-area (see opening and closing dates above).


Currently Ireland, Norway, Germany and UK have pre-approved funding for this Kick-start activity. Applications from any other Member State will require a letter of approval from their national delegation.

Individual ESA Member States have already made funding available for specific Thematic Calls on Kick-start Activities. For more details, please refer to the section Authorisation of Funding above.

In case you intend to submit a proposal for a Thematic Call and your company/organisation resides in another country, you are encouraged to contact the National Delegation.