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Satellite Vu pioneering space tech to accelerate decarbonisation of housing in the UK and beyond

A pioneering space technology has been deployed for the first time in the UK to map heat loss from houses. The test flight marked a significant step forward in the race to decarbonise UK housing stock with the deployment of cutting-edge space technology to identify buildings most in need of retrofitting action.

Satellite Vu's Leeds Inaugural flight readouts

The specially equipped plane, mounted with a sophisticated thermal imaging camera, flew over Leeds to gather data on the level of heat loss from individual buildings. This aerial thermal imaging technique, developed by Satellite Vu, offers an unprecedented level of detail and scale, allowing local authorities to more effectively target funding for retrofitting homes by being able to identity the hottest buildings in the data set, those most in need of retrofitting and insulation.

The data collected will be used to identify priority areas for insulating homes, enabling a more efficient and effective allocation of resources to upgrade and decarbonise UK housing stock. The technology Satellite Vu are developing offers a game-changing solution as they will be able to aggregate areas of data and single out the leakiest buildings using an index spatial analysis.

The flight was funded by the net zero charity MCS Charitable Foundation and carried out in partnership with Leeds City Council. The council will use the thermal imaging data to help residents better understand heat loss and to motivate retrofitting in the private sector. The data will also be used to strengthen the case for local area-based retrofit and other schemes by the council that have already had a transformative impact, such as the recent whole house retrofit of 300 mixed-tenure Victorian back-to-back homes in the Holbeck area of the city.

The council's efforts to improve the energy efficiency of homes in Leeds have yielded significant results. After updating Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), it was found that each property on average saved 2.5 tonnes of CO2 per year. This translates to a total saving of 84 tonnes of carbon across the lifetime of each home, as well as a financial saving of around 25% or £350 per year. It is important to note that this was before the energy crisis, so fuel bills were around £1400 in these properties. If the same properties were retrofitted now, the savings could be as much as £700 or more due to the doubling of energy prices.

Dr Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin, Research and Campaigns Manager at MCS Charitable Foundation, said, “With 29 million homes in the UK urgently needing upgrades to be fit for the future, we need detailed data on building conditions on a massive scale. This proof of concept could provide that data for the first time and will be game-changing for investment in whole-street and whole-area retrofitting programmes.”

Natalia Kuniewicz, Sales Representative at Satellite Vu, said “We are thrilled to see the successful deployment of our aerial thermal imaging technology in Leeds, which represents a significant milestone towards our ultimate goal of mapping heat loss from individual buildings on a global scale. This pioneering technology has the potential to be a game-changer in the race to decarbonise housing stock, providing crucial data to local authorities to enable effective targeting of funding for retrofitting homes. We are excited to continue working with our partners at the MCS Charitable Foundation and Leeds City Council to further develop and roll out this technology across the UK and beyond.”

Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council executive member for Infrastructure and Climate said:

“This is an innovative project that could transform our understanding of building heat loss at the city-level, potentially unlocking additional investment in energy efficiency measures that cut energy bills and help us tackle climate change.

“It is hugely exciting that Leeds is able to be part of this cutting-edge work. Leeds already has a strong track record of delivering energy saving improvements to thousands of homes in recent years, but we know that plenty more needs to be done. By giving us street-by-street insight about heat loss, this new technology could help us do just that.”


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