Descartes Labs opens up our second round of applications for free platform API access to individuals and small research teams

Donjek Glacie
The Donjek Glacier has temporarily dammed the Donjek River multiple times during the last few years. When the dam breaks, water is suddenly released down the valley, which impacts recreation and traditional hunting. At present, Donjek River flows through the terminus of Donjek Glacier and is unlikely to be dammed again, until the next surge event likely to occur in the next 5 years. This image is from work by Will Kochtitzky on understanding glacier change in a warming climate, one of the projects chosen for the first round of Descartes Labs’ Impact Science program.

In January 2020, we granted access to the Descartes Labs Platform API and data refinery for our first round of academic and non-profit researchers. This first cohort is now a few months into their year of free platform access, and we are ready to accept applications for our second round of research projects beginning this summer.

We believe that we’ve built something special at Descartes Labs. Our platform allows for rapid iteration and hypothesis testing, along with easy and efficient scaling across large geographies. But don’t take our word for it. Check out some of the feedback from our current academic users:

Lucas Kruitwagen, Ph.D. student, Oxford University: Global Solar Panel Mapping

Descartes Labs’ Impact Science program has given me unrivaled research opportunities in my Ph.D. Not only does their platform give me streamlined access to all the data I could hope for, but I also had the opportunity to deploy a deep learning model on a global scale. Beyond novel academic research, the dataset derived from our global deployment has tremendous value for policymakers, investors, and industry. With Descartes Labs, we’ve been able to deliver real-world impact from our research that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.

Sharon Zhou and Jeremy Irvin, Ph.D. students and teaching assistants, Stanford University: AI for Climate Change Bootcamp

The Descartes Labs Platform has enabled us to rapidly accelerate our data retrieval pipeline from a multi-month long process to one that only takes 1–2 weeks. This has allowed us to focus on machine learning model development and has been essential for enabling the deployment of our models at scale.

Will Kochtitzky, Ph.D. student, University of Ottawa: Understanding Change in Glacier Motion in a Warming Climate

The Descartes Labs Platform has made my work more efficient than I could have ever imagined. Downloading imagery from data provider websites is often a waste of time and storage space. Analyzing it with the Descartes Labs Platform leads to better scientific products because scientists can be more careful in processing the data, conduct our analysis over broader areas and for more years, and create easily reproducible results. Descartes Labs is essential in improving our group’s remote sensing efficiency, allowing us to spend more time doing science and understanding the impacts of climate change.

solar panel installations globally
Using multispectral imagery and deep learning, Lucas Kruitwagen has mapped solar panel installations globally by scaling his algorithms on the Descartes Labs Platform. Here is a Sentinel 2 image on the left, with the corresponding segmentation on the right.

Scientific integrity, excellence, and innovation are part of our core values here at Descartes Labs. We’re proud to have this focus internally, while also making our tools available to external users. It’s been exciting to see what the first group of academic users are creating using our platform, and we can’t wait to see what our next cohort will do!

The fine print

The Descartes Labs Impact Science Program consists of 12-month terms with selections in June and December to coincide with the fall and spring academic calendar. The standard catalog of datasets of the Descartes Labs data refinery will be available, including Landsat, Sentinel, Airbus OneAtlas, and more. We will provide guidance to get started and help load additional data you may require.

Since most of us at Descartes Labs are scientists, we have designed this program to be as easy as possible to minimize the heavy load of grant-writing. It consists of four steps:

  1. Apply with our application form and provide us with some detail about the project you intend to pursue.
  2. If you pass our selection criteria, you will be selected to be part of the cohort. If you aren’t selected, we’ll try to provide some feedback to help you refine the application down the road.
  3. Once you’re in the cohort, you can access and use the Descartes Labs Platform API and data refinery for up to one year to execute your project.
  4. At the end of the project, you’ll collaborate with Descartes Labs to publish your results and share your final data.

Key dates

  • Solicitation open: April 15th (note that in our previous blog post we targeted March 1st as opening day for our spring applications. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this shifted to mid-April).
  • Solicitations close: May 31st
  • Program selections: June 15th
  • Program kickoff: July 1st

We can’t wait to see what you come up with! Good luck!

— The Descartes Labs Team

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