Space Agency backs space-enabled drones to deliver COVID-19 testing kits

Funding | South East | South West | Technology

Science Minister Amanda Solloway has today unveiled details of the three new projects that have been selected as part of a joint initiative between the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) to find and support space-enabled technologies and services that can support the NHS response to coronavirus.

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.”


Space-Enabled Delivery Drones for the COVID Response (SEDDCR)

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

Stay

Landmrk Limited, based in Bristol, will develop an app called Stay, a mobile platform for charities and organisations supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Using satellite communications and Earth observation satellites the mobile-interactive app will reward young people for acting positively with ‘badges’, which will be linked to rewards, discounts or other incentives. Positive behaviour will include exercise, watching an educational video and answering a quiz and following distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Isolation +

Stevenson Astrosat, based in Musselburgh, Scotland, is developing a solution, called Isolation +, which uses advanced space data analytics combined with relevant ground information, to identify “hidden” vulnerable communities. This will allow voluntary organisations and local authorities to target support to those who are exposed to the impacts of Covid-19 through poverty and age.


Space is already playing an important part in healthcare. Last year the UK Space Agency provided £5 million for new health technologies inspired by working in space to support NHS England. These included providing real-time diagnosis of bowel cancer, developing more compact 3D X-ray machines and a mobile app that provided exercise plans free from air pollution for those with medical conditions such as asthma.

Meanwhile the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme uses UK expertise to support healthcare projects all over the world, including forecasting and providing early warning of dengue fever outbreaks in Vietnam through Earth observation satellites and using telecommunications to extend the reach of basic medical healthcare into remote areas in Nigeria.

The UK Space Agency and UKspace trade body continue to work closely together to help the space sector respond to and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK space sector employs 42,000 people and generates an income of £14.8 billion each year, while supporting £300 billion of wider economic activity through other industries with satellite services such as navigation, communications and Earth observation. The government is developing a comprehensive UK Space Strategy to build on this success, strengthen national space capabilities and unleash a wave of further innovation across the country.

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