Copernicus prize for bike app that uses earth imaging data

Dr Christopher Lowe and Dr Steven Owens mountain biking in the French Alps

Two Strathclyde researchers have won the prestigious Copernicus Masters University Challenge prize for their innovative use of Earth observation and satellite navigation data.

Dr Christopher Lowe and Dr Steven Owens from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering were recognised for their project Beinn Bike which is developing a route-planning app for mountain bikers.


The app will enable users to find biking routes based on their preference for the type of ride they would like – for example, based on distance, time, terrain type or difficulty – rather than simply following defined paths from A to B.

The app will work by using open-access Earth imaging data gathered by the Sentinel satellites (operated as part of the EU-funded Copernicus programme) to suggest routes that will provide riders with the desired qualities.

Dr Lowe said: “This project was borne from our love of mountain-biking and it turns route planning on its head.

We wanted to create a route-planning tool that would enable riders, who might not necessarily know an area well, to be able to find routes that suited them by analysing terrain and paths to give suggestions.

“A big challenge in creating this app is in processing the large amount of data involved but we hope to have a beta version available soon for people to try. Our main goal is to help people go places they’ve never been before.”

The pair collected their prize at a ceremony in Tallinn, Estonia as part of European Space Week, where they also came third in the UK element of the European Satellite Navigation Competition.

Dr Malcolm Macdonald, Director of the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, said: “This is a great achievement by Chris and Steve and underlines Strathclyde’s reputation for ‘useful learning’ and will be of real value when they come to create their spinout company.”

The Copernicus Masters is a European Commission-funded international competition run by the European Space Agency which awards prizes to innovative solutions, developments and ideas for business and society based on Earth observation data.