Scotland could “revolutionise” the world’s response to natural disasters with new breed of satellites, says top academic

A new breed of smaller satellites being manufactured in Scotland could “revolutionise” the world’s response to natural disasters by providing vital tracking data to first responders, a leading academic has said.

Dr Ciara McGrath, from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, said new ‘CubeSats’ being built in Glasgow are much more manoeuvrable and could be used to track the movements of forest fires and hurricances.

Glasgow is currently producing more of these type of satellites than any other city in Europe and has an opportunity to be at the forefront of a new generation of satellites which require less fuel and can be deployed much more easily than past models.

She said: “Scotland has a rich heritage of innovation and engineering but the growth in the Scottish satellite sector has really taken off in the last ten years. 

“At the moment satellites tend to follow a set path in orbit around the Earth as it takes a lot of fuel to move them, but there are new smaller satellites (CubeSats) being built in Glasgow which are easier to move around – and there are more being built here than any other city in Europe. 

“It’s like moving a drone rather than a 747. With easier maneuverability, they could be used to learn about natural disasters, such as forest fires and hurricanes, by tracking their movements and rapidly relaying data to first responders. In doing so Scotland could help revolutionise the world’s response to natural disasters and potentially save lives.”

Dr McGrath is due to speak on Wednesday, March 6, at the University of St Andrews with a host of fellow academics who will explore the possibilities for the burgeoning Scottish ‘space sector’, which is seeking to attract conferences to the country in a bid to position the growing sector internationally.

She will be joined by Dr Anne-Marie Weijmans, School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of St Andrews and Dr Luke Daly, School of Geographical & Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow, in an event branded INNOVATESPACE  – part of an INNOVATETHENATION series – and organised by VisitScotland Business Events.

Fiona MacKinnon, Associations & Sectors, VisitScotland Business Events, said: “Scotland has a hugely successful and thriving space sector, by the year 2030 it is expected that the space industry will grow its value to £4billion. Our speakers for INNOVATESPACE all have different focuses within the sector and we’re looking forward to hearing about the fantastic work each of their institutions are doing to take Scotland into the next stratosphere.”

Last year, the UK Space Agency and Highlands and Islands Enterprise announced funding to build the UK’s first spaceport in Sutherland which will launch Scottish-built satellites into space by early 2020.

The event will be held at the University of St Andrews, Physics and Astronomy Building, North Haugh on Wednesday 6th March 2019.