Want to know more about the relationship between Space and AI in Cornwall?

Meet Olivia Smedley, Space Scientist, Goonhilly Earth Station.

Cornwall is lucky enough to have an incredible group of women spearheading the innovation within the Space cluster, and beyond. Women who have been responsible for the growth of this industry in the region and who are pioneering technologies to take it to new heights everyday. 

In light of International Women’s Day, we caught up with Olivia Smedley, Space Scientist at Goonhilly Station. Olivia’s career as a woman in STEM traverses the worlds of space, data and AI. Following the exciting activity in 2022 so far in the realms of Environmental Intelligence and the applications of Satellite Data in Cornwall, we found out more about her role, the key relationship between space, data and AI, and her advice for women looking at entering this industry. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your job role…

I work at Goonhilly Earth Station on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. For the last couple of years, I have been a part of the team that has been working on the upgrade of our GHY6 antenna. This antenna is 32m in diameter and was originally built in 1984 for near space communications. It has now been upgraded for Deep Space Communications so I have been a part of this program working alongside the European Space Agency to get the antenna qualified for use on some of their missions. This has been incredibly exciting, undergoing mission readiness testing for Mars Express, Integral and GAIA. Now this antenna is fully operational, I am focusing on developing the Space AI Institute at Goonhilly.

Top three tips for a women starting a career in tech:

  1. Get involved! Look for any opportunities to get involved in careers you are interested in e.g. work experience, internships, events.
  2. Network! Build up a network of people that work in your areas of interest. This can be achieved through Tip number 1!
  3. Find out how people with careers you are interested in got into their role, one way of doing this is using LinkedIn.

What qualities do you feel make a good leader? 

I think that good leaders have a broad range of skills, not just within the technical domain. They are good communicators, are approachable and remain calm under pressure. These types of skills can be built up by gaining experience in a variety of ways e.g. joining sports clubs or completing Duke of Edinburgh type awards.

Can you tell us more about the relationship between AI and Space? 

Goonhilly Earth Station is developing a Space AI Institute to maximise the potential of the vast amounts of space data gathered each day using AI techniques. Satellites that are observing the Earth provide us with unique and unprecedented views of our planet, giving us a wealth of data on a daily basis that can be used to address climate change problems. An initial project that I worked on involved mapping tree cover across Cornwall using data from the ESA’s Sentinel satellites and a machine learning technique. Mapping tree cover using space-based observations is especially beneficial due to the ability to cover large areas quickly with a regular revisit time. Earth observation, especially in relation to forests, is a rapidly growing field with many exciting applications and developments.