Identification of High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS)
in Support of Satellite Air Quality Activities




Poor air quality is a health issue in the EU, particularly in urban areas. Cities currently encompass most of the population in Europe and are foci of air pollution from industries, household heating/cooling, and traffic. Exposure to noxious gases or small particles is statistically and medically proven to cause lung diseases and premature deaths. The 2015 Air Quality Report by the European Environmental Agency attributes 403 000 premature deaths to exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), 16 000 due to ozone (O3) and 72 000 due to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2012.

Cities account for more than 70% of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are driving the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures observed over the past 50 years. The Paris climate agreement has made the verification and improvement of local GHG emission inventories imperative.

Monitoring emissions and air pollution concentrations over urban areas requires data granularity at the local level, better than that provided by current and planned satellite missions and ground networks: horizontal and vertical resolutions do not always fit the observational requirements to be used in combination with urban and local air quality models. Urban air quality stations have a sparse coverage and local observations suffer from a limited representativeness. Moreover, the stations network density decreases towards suburbs and adjacent rural sites, hampering a citywide instantaneous view of air quality and the attribution of the pollution to its sources.

HAPS will enhance the provision of information on Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas emissions to decision makers and general public.


High-Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS) are air platforms in the shape of airships, balloons or gliders, circling over regions for extended time periods in the stratosphere, at ~20 km average height, above commercial airlines, jet streams and moisture.

HAPS notably complement ground-based and satellite observations, which is an asset for air quality and GHG applications at local level:

  • Advantages in relation to ground networks include that HAPS provide spatially-resolved observations in contrast to local time records; HAPS measurements are less influenced by urban design elements compared to in-situ observations in e.g. street canyons.
  • HAPS remain over an area for longer periods of time compared to low-orbit satellites, providing a better monitoring of the meteorological variability; HAPS also provide better resolution imagery compared to geostationary platforms, offering lower data latency and the possibility of return to the base for maintenance or payload reconfiguration as required by users.


The HAPSVIEW study seeks to identify how HAPS can provide data to operational air quality or GHG services, such as air quality modelling or greenhouse gas emission inventories.

Study objectives include:

  • Identification of user requirements, capable to be provided by HAPS, focusing on high-resolution time-resolved emissions and atmospheric composition data, primarily NO2, O3, CO2 and particulate matter.
  • Definition of two HAPS use cases for the Great Rotterdam region and Seville metropolitan area, respectively
  • Definition of the mission requirements for the use cases, including technical platform and instrument requirements, preliminary system concepts, air space regulations, geophysical data products and synergies with existing and planned satellite missions.

HAPSVIEW use cases

The Regional Authority of the Great Rotterdam region (Rijnmond area) and Rotterdam’s City Council have noted emission monitoring needs for this densely populated region in the Netherlands, related to harbour activities like petrochemical industry, energy production and intensive agricultural production under greenhouses.

The Regional Government of Andalusia and Seville’s City Council have recalled air quality data needs to implement health and environmental regulations. Summer ozone and NO2 episodes can be acute on public health while black carbon PM from agricultural waste burning is a year-round problem, out-lawed during the summer season.

For both end users the study primarily strives:

  • To monitor CO2 emissions on the city scale at sub-kilometre resolution for verifying the measures implemented to meet the Paris agreement.
  • To monitor the anthropogenic emissions of NO2, attribute the sources of Particular Matter (e.g: black carbon from biomass burning) and better understand how to mitigate tropospheric ozone exceedances.


  • GMV

    GMV is a privately owned technological business group with an international presence. Founded in 1984, GMV offers its solutions, services and products in very diverse sectors: Aeronautics, Banking and Finances, Space, Defense, Health, Cybersecurity, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Automotive, Telecommunications, and Information Technology for Public Administration and large corporations.

    GMV is one of the key European actors in geoscience research and geospatial information provision. Its research and information services provide input for decisions that impact upon resource use, management of the environment, and the safety and well-being of citizens.

  • Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute

    The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) is the Dutch national weather service. Primary tasks of KNMI are weather forecasting and monitoring of weather, climate, air quality and seismic activity. KNMI is also the national research and information centre for meteorology, climate, air quality, and seismology.


    Sceye has created a new class of airship capable of flying the stratosphere, the boundary between our atmosphere and space. Capable of flying and station-keeping at over 60,000 feet Sceye airships can remain aloft for year-long missions covering large areas. The large payload capacity (SWaP) enables airships to carry a mixed payload, including cameras, sensors, radar, and communications equipment, creating a a layer of virtual infrastructure in the sky.

    Sceye airships combine the best of planes, drones, and satellites and can be reconfigured between flights offering a low-cost, high altitude platform for next generation services. Applications range from environmental monitoring to delivering broadband connectivity in rural and urban locations.
    Our mission is to better connect and protect people, assets and our planet.

  • ABB

    ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader in power grids, electrification products, industrial automation and robotics and motion, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. Continuing a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB today is writing the future of industrial digitalization with two clear value propositions: bringing electricity from any power plant to any plug, and automating industries from natural resources to finished products. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 147,000 employees.

    The Space & Defense System group from Canada within ABB Measurement & Analytics has a vast heritage in novel custom optical instrument development for demanding applications in earth observation, atmospheric monitoring, defense, astronomy and space exploration.

Project Dissemination

HAPS4ESA 2019 State-of-the-Art and Future Perspective
for High Altitude Pseudo-Satellites (HAPS) in Europe
Leiden, The Netherlands 12–14 February 2019 HAPSVIEW Presentation HAPS4ESA
Workshop on Copernicus climate change
and atmosphere monitoring services
Santander, Spain 19 March 2019
ESA’s 2019 Living Planet Symposium Milan, Italy 13–17 May 2019 ESA 2019 Living Planet Symposium
Workshop on Copernicus services for environmental
and agricultural reporting
Madrid, Spain 26 June 2019
Seville users meeting Seville, Spain 16 July 2019 HAPSVIEW Seville - Use Cases
ESA earth observation Φ-week Frascati (Rome), Italy 9–13 September 2019
CAMS 4th General Assembly Budapest, Hungary 17–20 September 2019 GMV - CAMS 4th General Assembly

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