A very good article written by our partners, ELSYS Design and AViSTO, on their activities within the CIAR project, carried out at the IRT Saint Exupéry Sophia Antipolis, for the OPS-SAT demonstrator: ActiveEon, AViSTO, ELSYS Design, GEO4i , IRT Saint Exupéry and Thales Alenia Space are participating in an ambitious and exciting project: the OPS-SAT nano-satellite from the European Space Agency (ESA). Matthieu, an embedded software engineer at ELSYS Design in Sophia Antipolis, joined the project at the end of 2018. He tells us more about it.

What is OPS-SAT?

OPS-SAT is a flight laboratory, which aims to test and validate new software and hardware technologies in the space domain. Within the CIAR team of the IRT Saint Exupéry in Sophia Antipolis, along with ActiveEon, AViSTO, GEO4i and Thales Alenia Space, we contributed to the development of Artificial Intelligence solutions embedded inside the OPS-SAT demonstrator.

Why integrate AI on a satellite?

Currently, to carry out object detection in satellites, the images taken by the onboard sensors are all sent to the ground to carry out specific processing (forest fire detection for example). However, bandwidth is very expensive because the satellite cannot communicate constantly (it must be at a specific location relative to a ground station). With intelligence in the satellite, we will only send useful information. More specifically, my IRT Saint Exupéry project manager wanted to study the performance of neural networks embedded on FPGA, mainly evaluate the speed/energy consumption ratio.

Why use FPGAs?

In this project, ELSYS Design takes care of implementing the neural networks at RTL (Register Transfer Level) level. Then the choice of the network, its training, and its optimization are carried out by several project partners, including AViSTO.

On December 18, at the Guiana Space Center, the OPS-SAT demonstrator was launched into orbit by Arianespace’s Soyuz medium launcher.

How did you feel?

It was a very nice moment, even if there was some apprehension. Fortunately, everything went well.

And now what is next?

The current phase of the project will last another year. One of the next objectives will be to detect forest fires, which will involve recharging a neural network on the FPGA from the ground; another major challenge.

It’s a fascinating project…

Indeed; furthermore, AI will continue to expand its field of applications. As an ELSYS Design engineer, it is exciting to be able to work on the latest and most efficient technologies, both in hardware and in AI. To give you an example: one of the last partners in the project designed small drones to make deliveries inside cities. Currently, they are using a GPU and are considering switching to FPGA. This project still has many surprises in store for us.



Activeeon is a software company offering innovative solutions for job scheduling, workload automation, scalability and machine learning operationalization. For this CIAR project, Activeeon provided its expertise and its off-the-shelf “Machine Learning Open Studio (MLOS)” product to help with the choice of hyperparameters or models to determine which neural networks or other algorithms to use on satellite image detection for the next code to load on OPS-SAT.


AViSTO is a software engineering company. It specializes in complex projects using object oriented technologies, Web and Mobile technologies. To this core skills, AViSTO has gradually added peripheral professions to software development, including DevOps, quality assurance, data science and cybersecurity.

ELSYS Design

ELSYS Design is an engineering company specializing in the design of embedded systems. It supports innovative projects with high technical added value in the areas of embedded software, microelectronics, electronic boards and embedded systems. Industries covered include space, aeronautics and defense.


Geo4i is a French company specialized in geospatial data management, valorization of geospatial information and imagery analysis in the fields of defence, security and competitive Intelligence.

The expertise of Geo4i embraces different fields like imagery intelligence, geospatial intelligence, geospatial data management, data mining and open data.

Thales Alenia Space

Combining 40 years of experience and a unique diversity of expertise, talents and cultures, Thales Alenia Space architects design and deliver high technology solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Thales Alenia Space is a Joint Venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%).

These 5 partners join forces inside the Sophia-Antipolis based CIAR team of the IRT Saint Exupéry.

OPS-SAT : AI in the stars – An Article by Members
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