CityScan - an instrument which allows virtually real-time, 3D maps of pollution over entire urban areas to be constructed.


  • Earth Observation Science (EOS) has its core disciplines in Physics, Chemistry and Geography. The use of space observations to understand regional and global variability in climate and pollution, particularly in the atmosphere and the ocean/land surfaces has long been established. Aircraft, ground-based, and ship-borne sensors are also used. The sensors developed for EOS analyse atmospheric composition, surface temperatures (sea and land), fires and burned area.

  • There is now overwhelming consensus that poor air quality impacts on human health.

  • The World Health Organization has estimated that 2.4 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution, with 1.5 million of these attributable to indoor air pollution.

  • Population exposure to increased levels of gases and particulates requires action by public authorities at national, regional and international levels.


  • To create an instrument that will act as a “pollution radar” - monitoring air quality in urban environments. 

Collaborating Partners

The University of Leicester is one of the four core partners in the NERC/DIUS Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation and using a multi-disciplinary team, conducts research into many aspects of remote sensing, atmospheric and Earth surface science.


  • The University of Leicester have developed and built scanning, imaging DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy) systems in partnership with Surrey Satellite Technology Limited.


  • The CityScan instrument has significant advantages over currently available technologies as it allows virtually real-time, 3D maps of pollution over entire urban areas to be constructed.  Each system is envisaged to provide coverage of areas of some 25 km2 and to undertake real-time monitoring of nitrogen dioxide and aerosols at a spatial resolution of 50m. Effectively, acting like a pollution radar. 

  • CityScan will enable the collection of unique air quality monitoring datasets with the potential to open up new areas in emission monitoring, pollution measurement and air quality control. Such measurements need high performance spectrometer and detector systems, sharing a number of key development demands with satellite instrumentation.

  • This technology is therefore a natural spin-out avenue for space-borne spectrometer developments, with advances made in CityScan being fed back to the UK space industry via the project partners.

Share this page:

Funded by ERDF