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RIDESAT – RIver flow monitoring and Discharge Estimation by integrating multiple SATellite data



The RIDESAT Project (RIver flow monitoring and Discharge Estimation by integrating multiple SATellite data) aims at developing a new methodology for the joint exploitation of three sensors (altimeter, optical and thermal) for river flow monitoring and discharge estimation.

Even if with a number of limitations, satellite radar altimetry over surface inland water has demonstrated its potential in the estimation of water levels useful for hydrological applications. Optical sensors, thanks to their frequent revisit time (nearly daily) and large spatial coverage, are recently used to support the evaluation of the river discharge variations. Despite the moderate spatial resolution of the optical data (about 250 – 300 m), their complementary with radar altimeter data enables to benefit of the different characteristics of the satellite sensors. In particular, the combination of radar (i.e. altimeters), optical and thermal instruments (i.e., multispectral sensors), allows for a continuous monitoring of the inland water and, hence, of the river discharge.

The RIDESAT Project aims at:

  1. better understanding the use of optical and thermal sensors through the study of the physical meaning behind the process and their field of applicability; and
  2. developing a procedure of merging the three different satellite data through a physically based method that uses hydraulic variables obtained by satellites (e.g. water height, slope, width, flow velocity).

The goal is to provide, for the first time, an accurate satellite-based river discharge product for small to large rivers.
In order to test the ability of the different sensors to retrieve the river discharge at global scale, 10 pilot sites are selected all over the world, based on the availability of in situ measurements of hydraulic and morphological variables: water level, cross section, width, surface and bottom slope, flow velocity and discharge. The selection of pilot sites is also based on the climatic area (Tropical, Arid, Temperate, Cold), flow regime (glacial, nival, pluvial and tropical pluvial) and the size of the basin (large, medium and small).

The developed procedure and the results obtained in the RIDESAT project will have an impact both on the scientific and the operational communities. In this respect, the estimation of the river discharge has a large interest in the hydrology community and an efficient and productive procedure can prove an advancement for the understanding and the knowledge of the hydrological processes.

Users and stakeholders potentially interested include space agencies, government agencies, basin authorities, civil protection authorities and, more in general, all the organisations interested in the sustainable management of water for people and societies.

This 12 month activity will be led by CNR-IRPI (IT) with the participation of DTU (DK).

The Project is now closed but the research activity is still ongoingunder the STREAMRIDE Project to explore the possibility of improving the RIDESAT algorithm andcomplementing it with a different satellite approach for riverdischarge estimation developed in the STREAM Project.

Scientific Papers


Prime contractor
  • Technical University of Denmark (DK)