The power of earth observation: monitoring our environment with EXPLORE

9 november 2023

The relevance of the European Copernicus programme and the added value of earth observation are becoming increasingly evident for everyone. Along with it, the importance of user-friendly interfaces, providing direct access to valuable information, is on the rise. At Nazka, we are fortunate to have a team with a strong background in earth observation and user interface development.

We have a passion for developing applications that leverage remote sensing data. Together with VITO, which is globally recognized for its expertise in earth observation, we have built EXPLORE, an operational Earth observation platform that enables us to monitor our environment in near real-time using satellite data. Just this week, we proudly released EXPLORE-VN, a version tailored specifically for the needs of Vietnam.

EXPLORE-VN is more than just a platform; it's the basis for a comprehensive environmental monitoring solution designed specifically for Vietnam. The first objective of this solution is to provide users with valuable water quality products, derived from the data collected by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 (S2) satellites. What sets EXPLORE-VN apart is its ability to process data for the entire territory of Vietnam in near real-time using a validated processing workflow. Sentinel-2 satellites conduct optical scans of the entire globe every five days, offering high-resolution images at 10 meters. This frequent and detailed coverage provides EXPLORE-VN with a wealth of information about our environment.

EXPLORE-VN is a great tool that helps us monitor surface water quality from satellite images. We are very grateful with the support from Finexpo and the Belgian government. As remote sensing is an ever evolving domain, we look forward to continue our cooperation to further improve the indicators and the accuracy achieved. (The Institute of Geography of the Vietnamese Academy of Science & Technology in Vietnam)

EXPLORE-VN’s user interface is designed with innovation and user-friendliness in mind. Some of the standout features include:

  • Cloud cover filter: As satellite images can often be obscured by clouds, the cloud cover filter helps users exclude images with a high cloud cover, ensuring the highest quality data.
  • Smart calendar: It takes five days to scan the entire surface of Vietnam using the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite. When users zoom into a specific location, the calendar reveals which days have available images for that area.
  • Comparative analysis: Users can select two different days or products and seamlessly compare them using a slider in the middle of the interface.
  • Informative layers: To aid in interpreting the results, EXPLORE-VN offers additional layers, including true-color images for each day (water-leaving reflectance, L2A, atmospherically corrected using VITO’s iCOR algorithm) and tile footprints outlining available Sentinel-2 tiles.
  • Cloud and water mask: These dynamic masks are based on pixel classification layers that accompany each image.
  • Dynamic legend: When users hover over an image on the map, a dynamic legend displays the exact value of each pixel.
  • Filter on valid pixels: To enhance reliability, a filter allows users to exclude days with a low percentage of valid pixels in a time series dataset, which is particularly useful when clouds obstruct part of the data.
  • Credit system: Using EXPLORE has a real cloud cost due to the high amount of data moved and stored. We therefore use different user profiles and a credit system. Users can thus decide for themselves how many credits go to which operation (processing, time series, downloads). In this way, the related cloud costs can also be accurately monitored. Such a system is innovative for earth observation applications.


The platform employs state-of-the-art algorithms for data processing, following the most recent scientific insights. Moreover, EXPLORE-VN is designed to be flexible, enabling the inclusion of additional analysis-ready products, sensors, and functionalities, making it a valuable tool for environmental monitoring.

By providing timely, accurate, and accessible data, EXPLORE-VN is contributing to a better understanding of our world and how we can protect it. With its state-of-the-art algorithms, operational capacity, user-friendly interface and adaptability, EXPLORE-VN is a significant step forward bringing earth observation from the research domain into the daily working environment of many. 

EXPLORE-VN is purchased by the Institute of Geography, part of the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology, with financial support of FINEXPO’s SME instrument.

Share this article
Looking for a mapping partner for your remote sensing application?

Similar blogs