Cerberus - Forest Falcon

You are here

BlackShore’s crowdsourcing platform Cerberus reinforces developing country economies utilizing satellite imagery amplifying sustainable food production while preserving the environment. This is achieved through socially conscious gaming and the power of the crowd.

This project is the follow-up of the IAP feasibility study Cerberus: Forest Falcon, which takes into account the lessons learned and to scale up capabilities for large deployments. This project will cover seven crowdsourcing initiatives, each one addressing different challenges but using the same Cerberus platform. 

The seven crowdsourcing initiatives address areas such as thedetection and prevention of illegal logging and fishing, sustainable agriculture, understanding communities in the context of water and natural disaster resilience while educating and involving the global public using space resources and social gaming mechanics. 

Service to be developed:

Turning satellite images into maps and knowledge using collective intelligence

  • Faster, more thorough, affordable and just as precise as experts
  • Information to be used to assist agriculture and boost yield
  • Monitoring and safeguarding of rain forests
  • Many other applications that can rely on satellite imagery

Public engagement through a game

  • Learning, awareness and crowdfunded community development

Carried out by

  • BlackShore in cooperation with 52 Impact B.V., Streaming Creativity Game Studios supported by the European Space Agency, the Rabobank and Amazon Web Services

Project partners

  • AKVO, The Forest Trust, Q42 and The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies


  • 24 months, started November 2017

Users and their needs

The project carries out seven initiatives each having a slightly different scope for five users throughout the duration of the project.

Initiative 1 | “The path to a well” with AKVO in Mali

In the context of water resilience, upon the request of AKVO, supporting UDUMA working on the installment and maintenance of manual water pumps we detect fresh water sources and monitor existing water sources, then we can start mapping the infrastructure between water source and communities. In this case we use very high-resolution satellite imagery in which we can detect objects of 50 centimeters. It will allows us to distinct walking paths from roads which can have vehicles. This will later allow us to calculate travel times between water source and livelihood.

We will map an area of approximately 10 by 10 kilometers whereas one pixel will be 50 centimeters.

The following features are be detected:

  • v  Potential Fresh water sources (we will highlight existing water sources using AKVO’s data).
  • We could make a distinction between manmade and natural water source for example).
  • v  Infrastructure such as paths and roads
  • v  Communities and buildings
  • v  Vegetation

Please refer the next image showing a preliminary published map generated based on “A Path to a Well” resources. This map is printable and was carried to the Mali region allowing the local workers to better understand their region.

 Initiative 2: “Drivers for Human Conflict” with the Hague Center for Strategic Studies in Mali

The Hague Center for Strategic Studies (HCSS) is conducting research involving information in the support of the WPSI (Water, Peace and Security Initiative) in Mali. This user would like to have a map of approximately 10 000km2 whereas the area will be mapped for infrastructure, lively hoods and water sources. In addition, a mapping will be done of drying farmlands pushing pressure of the available food production potential.

This overall research is being conducted to investigate what potential drivers are for conflict, whereas in this case water, or better the absence of water is seen as a main actor. To do this research detailed maps are required.


Image: 10000km2 of Sentinel-2 data to be mapped in Mali related to “Drivers for Human Conflict”

Initiative 3: “Brazilian Oils” with The Forest Trust in Brasil”

This initiative covers an area of approximately 10 000km2 and involves an area in Brazil where palm oil production is prone. From The Forest Trust, Firstly BlackShore got several requests for information involving insight in historical context such as deforestation and the growth of palm oil quality.

Second, The Forest Trust is interested in information on the existing infrastructure to estimate logistic travel times between communities and large agricultural farms. In addition, this initiative is needed to search for candidate areas to plant new palm oil plantations without the sacrifice of any natural rain forest. For this land characteristics are required such as accessibility, soil type, flatness and the absence of nature.

Third, The Forest Trust, is interested to get estimates of total CO2 stocks being present in the natural rain forests, this is an important part for TFT, since they work is in the philosophy of REDD+ whereas farmers must be supported to work efficiently on their existing land plots and thus eliminate illegal rain forest logging or burning.

Image: In Brazil we have distinct palm oil plantations from natural rain forest. We use the satellite’s multispectral sensors allowing us to distinct crop species which can’t be seen with the human eye. Natural rain forest is green, palm oil is red.

Initiative 4 | “Sugar Cane and water consumption” with AKVO in Mali

We propose to map a pre-defined data, using open satellite imagery, and generate a baseline map to see what type of crops are growing there. The most important crop is to identify sugar cane whilst it is a heavy water user. If we can identify the crops we can for example start analyzing sugar cane development over time.

We propose to map an area of approximately 50x 50 km2 whereas 1 pixel has an equivalent of 10 meters. E.g. we can detect objects of 10 meters.

The following features will be detected:

  • Sugar cane
  • Other agriculture (can optionally be subdivided in cocoa, palm, maize etc.)
  • Natural vegetation
  • Communities
  • Infrastructure such as roads
  • Surface water

Initiative 5: “Building a village” with The Forest Trust in Ivory coast

In this project we are going to monitor a village in Ivory coast and take a closer look at smallholder farms and what crop types they produce. In addition, we are going to map building types and infrastructure creating a detailed local geographical map. In this project we are going to use satellite imagery in which we can distinct objects of 30 centimetres.

Initiative 6: “Preserving what is beneath” with Q42 in Southern Africa

With Q42 we are going to design a service so they can use their drones more effectively. With satellites we can help predicting where for example illegal fishing is likely to occur. They can send out their flying drones to catch and identify vessels carrying out illegal fishing and report them to the authorities. In this case we are probably going to use Sentinel-1 (Radar) based satellite imagery.

Initiative 7: “Bright colors” with the Rabobank Bollenstreek in the Netherlands

This project is a bit out of scope compared to the other projects, but we add this helping out the Rabobank Bollenstreek, one of the supporting partners. We are going to build a demonstrator connecting space assets with agricultural assets in the region where ESTEC, Netherlands is based. We intend to allow local, but also our global crowd, to play with satellite imagery highlighting the local flowers in their blooming period. Using both multi spectral imagery and colour imagery the users will learn in an engaging way how satellites can help doing the farmers work. In this case we aim to use 0,3-meter satellite imagery.

Note, since Cerberus is designed to act quickly on present real world needs according to this Cerberus will accommodate changing user needs. This means the scope and sequential order of the 7 initiatives can shift throughout the project. 

Service/ system concept

BlackShore’s Cerberus as a product

  • Crowd generated maps:
    • Information supporting agricultural activities (drought, fertility, diseases, harvest conditions etc.)
    • Community mapping (infrastructure, livelihoods etc.)
    • Forestry (logging activity, bio diversity, carbon stocks etc.)
  • Return from in- game micro transactions engaging the social gaming market

Image: Cerberus game interface during a service trial involving Mali, note in addition to the feasibility study we implemented the integration of surface models (3D).

Cerberus is constructed in the Unity game engine allowing us to support multiple platforms. Right now larger screened computers are supported and Android support is coming up next. Please refer to the next image to get an impression how Cerberus also can run on very large touch displays as demonstrated in the Hague during the Planetary Security Initiative conference 2019:


Space Added Value

The base of the system consists of open earth observation data delivered through Europe’s Copernicus programme. In the areas of interest where the initiatives are implemented the data is acquired, prepared and presented to the crowd for processing. The project makes use of the multispectral capabilities of satellite images enabling identification of distinct vegetation types and their quality. Both the colour channels and the visualisation of the multispectral channels are presented to the crowd, enabling them to do more in-depth interpretations of the area of interest.

Satellite navigation is used in situ for both validation and supporting on-the-ground activities. Firstly, using navigation it is possible to validate the on the ground what has been mapped from space. Secondly, organisations working in the field can acquire navigation coordinates and venture there in order to see how they can improve things locally.

The following image shows an overview of the space components. Note this image is as designed according the precursor Feasibility Study where the focus was on the UN REDD+ standards. This infographic will be updated in the future by showing novel insights obtained by the different crowdsourcing initiatives.

Full res poster: http://www.blackshore.eu/Images/projects/BlackShoreREDD%20infographic%20-%20Poster.png

Current Status

The project started November 2017 and the actual mapping has commenced in the summer of 2018 meaning Cerberus and her anticipated services are up and running.

For updates news, please visit www.blackshore.eu, or https://www.facebook.com/cerberusgame/

Prime Contractor

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Hans Van't Woud
BlackShore, European Space Innovation Centre Kapteynstraat 1
2201 BB Noordijwk ZH
+31 (0) 614 104 204

ESA Project Manager

Fausto Vieira
Keplerlaan 1
2201AZ Noordwijk

Status Date

Updated: 11 June 2018 - Created: 11 June 2018