ESA title
Competing cyclists

Space to transform how sporting events are captured

05/10/2020 310 views 13 likes
ESA / Space in Member States / United Kingdom

Photos are an important keepsake for anyone taking part in a marathon, triathlon, or swim race. As public sporting events start to take place again, a new space-enabled image sharing service will capture races as they happen and instantly send photos of competing athletes to users’ smart phones.  

Family and friends of competitors, who may not be able to provide their support in person due to COVID-19 guidelines, will be able to use the service to follow race progress in real-time.

The project demonstrates how space benefits citizens in the UK – from supporting the economy to making life more fun.

With support from ESA and the UK Space Agency, British company AWOL is working to develop its platform for use at public sporting events, which are starting to take place with precautionary measures to protect against coronavirus.

The company plans to roll out its service next year at the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run and Manchester Marathon, as well as many more marathons, triathlons, and swim races.

Like a finisher’s medal or trophy, photos are a valued memento for any amateur athlete. But when using current image sharing services, people typically have to wait a day or so to get hold of in-race pictures.

AWOL’s photography equipment captures runners, cyclists or swimmers as they cross the finish line, or reach other significant race milestones, before uploading the high-quality pictures for family and friends to access in real-time.

Space technology enriches the daily lives of British citizens and is a key contributor to every sector of the UK economy, including sports and recreation. GPS will be used to supply time and location information so pictures can be identified, and satellite communications will transmit photos to AWOL’s service, alerting users with live smartphone notifications when they become available.

Rich Burnett, co-founder and operations director at AWOL, said: “Due to COVID-19 restrictions, public sporting events are taking place at a reduced compacity to ensure competitors’ safety – this means fewer spectators in attendance to provide their support. Our service takes advantage of satellite communications and GPS to ensure that, if they can’t attend in person, family and friends can still follow their loved ones’ progress by receiving high-quality photos in real-time.”

Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Space is a glue that joins together many of the practical parts of our everyday lives, from how we bank to our food delivery. But it also supports technologies like sports photography that make life more fun. AWOL’s concept will help revolutionise the quality and the speed of sports photography and I am certain anyone who has taken part in these kinds of events will look forward to using this service.”

Nick Appleyard, head of ESA Space Solutions, said: "Athletes and sportspeople move faster than the rest of us – it's part of their appeal – and they go to places that we cannot always follow. So we need help to be by their side. Telecommunications solve that problem; with satellite connectivity and tracking we can follow and record their activity, and we can be part of the celebrations wherever they are. Even if we can't keep up."

Funding for the AWOL project is supplied by ESA Business Applications under its ESA Space Solutions umbrella, in which the UK is a leading investor.