Remote Sensing Inspections
Remote Sensing Inspections
What is remote sensing?
Remote sensing is where we look at and inspect farmers’ land using satellite imaging. In the UK, England and Wales currently use remote sensing as part of the routine inspection process carried out each year.
Have remote sensing inspections always taken place or are they new?
All European Union member states have a requirement to inspect at least 5% of Single Payment Scheme (SPS) applications each scheme year.
Member states can use physical inspection (farm visit by an inspector) and remote sensing as ways to do this, although the use of remote sensing is optional.
The majority of the checks carried out by RPA use remote sensing. Remote sensing uses very high resolution satellite images to check the land area and then use it to check it matches what the farmer has claimed for on the SPS application form. RPA has been using remote sensing for SPS, and before that Arable Area Payment Scheme, since 1992.
When are remote sensing controls carried out?
The images for remote sensing are obtained via the Commission. They have windows of acquisition which member states can negotiate on but they are broadly between April and August. This is the period in which the satellite providers will sweep the areas required by the Commission (to meet the control requirements of each member state) and the imagery is then provided to us by the Commission.
This means that the image used to inspect a holding could be taken at any point during the acquisition window. However, climate affects the acquisition. For example in England we often suffer in the early summer months with cloud cover rendering the images insufficient for the inspection. Where this happens it can impact on the timescale for processing the results.
As with physical inspections on the farm, the inspection uses the image from that point in time and any change in land use after the image is taken, provided of course the land is not rendered ineligible in which case the customer has an obligation to notify us, is not a problem for the inspection acting as a control.
In addition the results from remote sensing, where a query is picked up, are always confirmed with the farmer before being used. This is because we know the imagery cannot always be conclusive – for example where there is grazed woodland (the image will only show the tree canopy). In cases where we think we need to double check the findings we will send an inspector out to the parcels under query to confirm the findings. Again this can mean a delay in the processing of the claim but is ultimately to the advantage of the farmer as it prevents incorrect payment.
Page published: 5 September 2011