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UK space industry helps to tackle coronavirus

10/07/2020 102 views 8 likes
ESA / Space in Member States / United Kingdom

British businesses have answered ESA’s call to help overcome coronavirus by devising space-enabled technologies that will support the NHS and protect health and wellbeing.

Young people will be encouraged to use an app that supports their mental health, and space data will help identify and assist vulnerable citizens. Drones are also set to deliver much-needed COVID-19 test kits and medical supplies. 

The projects were announced today by Amanda Solloway, UK Science Minister.

Bristol company Landmrk Limited is to develop an app called Stay that will be used by charities and organisations to support young people's mental health and wellbeing. Using satellite communications and Earth observation data, the mobile-interactive app will reward users for acting positively with ‘badges’, which will be linked to rewards, discounts or other incentives.

A solution called Isolation + is being developed by Scotland-based Stevenson Astrosat that uses advanced space data analytics and information from the ground to identify people in vulnerable situations, so they can be supported by local authorities or voluntary organisations.

Skyports drone at take off
Skyports drone at take off

Skyports, based in London, is set to help NHS Highland, which serves a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland, to deliver medical supplies and samples from a hospital on the Argyll and Bute mainland. Drones will use satellite communications and navigation, as well as Earth observation data, to chart a course to other areas of the mainland and across the sea to nearby islands to reach medical practices in need.

The initiative to fund space-based solutions to the most serious public health emergency in decades was launched in April by ESA and the UK Space Agency. The drive for further new products and services is continuing, with the call for ideas remaining open until 30 September.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “I’m proud of how our world-leading space sector is stepping up to provide innovative solutions to directly support our amazing NHS, as we continue our national effort to tackling coronavirus.

“The projects we are backing today show UK ingenuity at its finest, and will make a real difference to how we use this latest innovative technology to deliver critical healthcare now and long into the future.”

Tony Young, the NHS national clinical lead for innovation, said: “The NHS long-term plan is bringing new technologies into the NHS to improve patient care and save lives. As we deal with the greatest challenge in the NHS’ history, innovation in medicine and convenient, faster technology are helping frontline staff to give people world-leading treatment for COVID-19 alongside care for killer conditions including cancer.”

Nick Appleyard, Head of Space Solutions at ESA, said: “So many people have been so deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic, in the UK and around the world. We are grateful to these companies for quickly stepping forwards with their ideas to relieve pressure at some key points in the NHS' extraordinary moment of challenge. And we are proud that ESA has been able to support them through our long-standing partnership with the UK Space Agency.

“We hope that these projects will now inspire even more innovators to make a difference, and we look forwards to receiving their proposals too. Finally, we would like to thank the staff and workers of the NHS for their service.”

Funding for these initiatives is supplied by ESA under its Space Solutions umbrella, in which the UK is a leading investor.

About ESA Space Solutions

ESA Space Solutions aims at reaching commercial exploitation of space assets, data and capabilities addressing incubation, proving technical feasibility and business development. This includes the development of operational services for a wide range of users through the combination of different systems, and support in creating viable companies as well as to existing companies.