Keyne Eye: Smart Urban Planning

Milton Keynes is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK and a great economic success story. However, the challenge of supporting sustainable growth without exceeding the capacity of the infrastructure, and whilst meeting key carbon reduction targets, is a major one. In 2013, Milton Keynes collaborated with European Space Imaging partner Satellite Applications Catapult, to investigate whether a more effective method could be found to detect changes to land over time, ensuring that planning management policies were adhered too. The result is a smart city innovative planning application tool known as Keyne Eye and is due to be completed later this year (2017).

Modernising the Planning Process

Prior to the commencement of Keyne Eye, the planning management at Milton Keynes was of a manual nature. The process involved the application of planning permits that were then approved and documented in a database. To ensure adherence to the permit, planning officers were sent to physically inspect the properties listed in the database and verify that land changes were in accordance with those approved within the planning permit. The entire process was inefficient and costly to the local council. Recognising an opportunity to make better use of satellite data to address its urban planning activities and reduce the high resource impact previously needed to identify progress of approved building work, Milton Keynes approached the Catapult to provide independent expert advice and support needed to harness earth observation data as a valuable information source.

A very high resolution satellite image of Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.

Tracking Land Use Changes

By utilising the very high resolution imagery provided by European Space Imaging, the Catapult were able to develop a unique Urban Planning Service that allows Milton Keynes Council to intuitively track land changes and easily identify where any illegal activity may be occurring, thus making the city more efficient. The application tool Keyne Eye feeds directly into the council dashboard and combines eight band multispectral 30 cm very high resolution satellite imagery captured by European Space Imaging on a quarterly basis. The tool incorporates detection layers that immediately identify any changes that have occurred. These changes can then be analysed in accordance with the approved planning permits.

The result is substantial time and cost savings to the council. Planning officers no longer need to physically inspect a property to verify planning permit adherence, they can simply view an image on the screen. The tool allows a high degree of accuracy with further applications such as the measurement of area and distance. For this reason, 30 cm very high resolution satellite imagery provided by European Space Imaging was crucial to the success of the project. Furthermore Keyne Eye is addressing the growing challenge facing UK cities around economic development and sustainability.

Screenshots from Keyne Eye urban planning tool.

Screenshots from Keyne Eye urban planning tool.

Screenshots from Keyne Eye urban planning tool.

Integrating Multiple Data Sources

Keyne Eye was created as part of the MK Smart Project, in addition to urban planning this tool has a multifaceted design incorporating areas such as transport and energy, healthcare, community engagement and water management. The tool’s data hub includes information from local and natural open sources, data from infrastructure networks, sensor readings related to weather and pollution and even crowd sourced data from social medial and mobile applications in addition to satellite imagery. The unique versitity of the tool further demonstrates the value of very high resolution data and the key role it can play in predicting and averting potential causes for concern for any business, thereby ensuring business success.

"Looking at the changes in an open environment can be complex with areas of 10 m x 10 m or even smaller needing to be verified. To do this effectively, you need very high resolution data and through WorldView-2 and WorldView-3 data, European Space Imaging made this possible. We were able to easily and effectively monitor and detect changes, which were crucial to the project’s success."

Daniel Wicks, Senior Earth Observation Specialist & Cities Lead, Satellite Applications Catapult


To increase the efficiency and cut the costs of identifying land use changes by local council planners at Milton Keynes Council.


Replace manual inspection processes with very high resolution multispectral satellite data by building a custom application.


The creation of Keyne Eye, an intuitive tool that incorporates satellite imagery with detection layers to quickly and easily identify changes.


The Satellite Applications Catapult is an independent innovation and technology company, created to foster growth across the economy through the exploitation of space. They help organisations make use of and benefit from satellite technologies, and bring together multi-disciplinary teams to generate ideas and solutions in an open innovation environment.

Based in Harwell, near Didcot, the Catapult was established in May 2013 by Innovate UK as one of a network of centres to accelerate the take-up of emerging technologies and drive economic growth. The Catapult is a not-for-profit research organisation which is registered as a private company limited by guarantee and controlled by its Board.

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