The UAE Space Agency View on the Importance of Space Assets in Sustaining a Consolidated Modern Geo-Special Information Systems

Dr. Mohamed Nasser Al Ahbabi

Dr (Eng.) Mohamed Nasser Al Ahbabi
Director General, UAE Space Agency





In July 2014 UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced a decree to set up a UAE Space Agency (UAE SA) that will report directly to the Cabinet and enjoy financial and administrative independence. The UAE SA primary mandates are: to develop, organize, support, guide and coordinate the UAE's growing Space sector that contributes to a diversified UAE national economy and which supports sustainable development; the development and use of Space science and technology within the UAE and provide support and advice in these areas; to develop the necessary Space policy and regulation, and support their enforcement; enhancing the UAE's position as a global player in aerospace; to establish international partnerships in the Space sector, and help support knowledge transfer; and last but not least to raise awareness of the importance of the Space sector and the development of the qualified human resources in the Space field.

The UAE SA will also be responsible for facilitating, supporting as well as supervising UAE national Space programs, such as the "Hope" probe UAE Mars Mission. The UAE investments in Space technologies already exceed US$5 billion, including satellite data communications and television broadcast - YahSat, mobile satellite communication - Thuraya Satellites and Earth mapping and observation systems by Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), Dubai-Sat series. It is therefore the responsibility of the UAE SA to facilitate what is necessary for these and future investment in the Space sector to playing their role in achieving its UAE national economic growth targets.

Many governmental and commercial entities within the UAE have already demonstrated the importance of Earth Observation (EO) Satellites data analysis services in providing a consolidated and systematic approach to global monitoring of land, sea and the atmosphere, which is now an essential and indispensable element of modern day Geo-Special information management systems. The Space based EO Satellite systems' data in now routinely used, in conjunction with other sources of data, such as aerial imaging, LiDAR, laser urban mapping and ground based weather monitoring to generate and build integrated special and temporal data bases as well as providing services that rely on holistic analysing this data. Such services include: the mapping of climate-induced hazards and vulnerability assessment, including for example; the modelling and analysis of impacts from sea level rise due to global warming, predicting poor visibility due to sand storms, foggy weather and heavy rain in order to assess the impact on the quality of life (e.g., car accidents). Web-based multidimensional GIS for disaster risk assessment and management tools. The importance of Satellite based GSI in disaster management has led to a number of international initiatives to help share this data at a global level. This includes the United Nations UN-Spider project which is run by UNOOSA (UN office of outer Space Affairs), as well as commercial projects such as the DMC (Disaster Monitoring Constellation) managed by SSTL, among others.

With the establishment of the UAE Space Agency the UAE can now consolidate and build on its existing involvement in the various international GSI collaborative activities. It is the agency's mandate to further demonstrate the county's capabilities and commitments to be an effective member and contributor to the various global activities such as UN-Spider, as well as other initiates that are intended for the benefit of all human kind. The UAE SA will leverage the already existing successful family of UAE owned earth observation satellites developed and operated by MBRSC EO satellites, namely DuabiSat 1 and 2, soon to be followed by the state of the art, Emirate built KhalifaSat. It may now be the right time to assess the feasibility and benefits of establishing a common and centralised UAE EO data base that includes data from UAE satellites and other commercially available data, generated from Space assets as well as other sources so that this data can be made available to all UAE government entities who can then input data to as well as access the various layers of this information, through a secure data portal. This has proved to be a very effective strategy when it was adopted by the Abu Dhabi government through the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Systems and Information Centre (ADSIC) in 2009 to enable the provision of centralised GSI services. This was in line with the e-Government vision and objectives to make e-services available to both the public and private sectors. The Abu Dhabi Geospatial Portal, is part of the Abu Dhabi Spatial Data Infrastructure (AD-SDI) initiatives, and is based on using advanced Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology which is capable of providing a wide range of map navigation, exploration, and querying tools with English and Arabic interfaces. The Portal is a reservoir of electronically enabled geospatial information collected from various government entities such as imagery, streets and buildings, landmarks and points of interest, administrative boundaries, urban planning and development, and environmental data including fisheries, soils, habitat, forests and many more.


Dr. (Eng.) Mohamed Nasser Al Ahbabi has been appointed Director General of the UAE Space Agency after having the responsibility of designing and creating the agency.

He obtained his first Degree in the USA, then his MSc and PhD in the United Kingdom on Information and Communication Technologies domain where he has published more than 20 scientific papers.

Dr Ahbabi has contributed and led numerous strategic projects in the ICT domain for the benefit of the UAE government. He has also led a UAE Armed Forces Think Tank Project within the Centre of Excellence. His role embedded advising Military and Government at Strategic level on emerging concepts and technologies in the area of Smart Defense, Cyber Warfare and Space developments.

He was the head of YAHSAT MilSatCom and other Space Projects.

He has an active role in ITU-R, UN Space working groups and ICT professional associations.

Dr Ahbabi is also a key speaker in a number of international conferences in the area of smart defense, mil- Space, cyber security, and smart governments.

He is a board member of YahSat Company and of the UAE ICT fund.

Director General, UAE Space Agency:

The Director General leads a team of 50 who manage the UAE's space sector. He is responsible for realizing the agency's goals of growing this Sector. He recommends the National Space Strategy, and related laws, policies, and regulations to the government. He promotes and supports Industrial and R&D space projects.

He establishes and maintains international relationships and partnerships, coordinates with national concerned authorities and provides guidance to non-government space sector organizations.

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Important Dates

Submission of abstracts: 30 September 2015

Notification of acceptance: 15 October 2015

Full papers submission: 31 October 2015

Registration Dates

Early bird registration extended to: 31 October 2015

Registration Deadline: 30 November 2015

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Sep 7, 2015