UK / Australia — A Scottish company is raising funds to develop a satellite that could help track and prevent the spread of forest fires such as those that recently devastated parts of south-eastern Australia.
Glasgow-based Clyde Space designs components and power systems for small satellites and hopes to adapt some of its pipeline technology to provide early warning of wildfire outbreaks from space so they can be stopped before they take hold.
“Apart from saving people’s lives, homes and a lot of devastation, having a way of finding fires before they spread could save the insurance industry billions,” explains Clyde Space’s managing director Craig Clark. “We’re in discussions with a Government funding body about a satellite camera system that could be used for monitoring forest fires.
It’s definitely possible to have an instrument to do that, and we have the capability in this country to build and operate such a system.”
Satellites fitted with cameras are already used in the agricultural industry to monitor whether farmers are complying with EU legislation on crop rotation.
Near-infrared technology also helps satellite cameras to detect areas of plant disease that require treatment. Several recent successes could help Clyde Space develop the forest fire system.
It has just won a 70,000 pounds Smart Feasibility Award from the Scottish Government to develop an attitude control system that enables the satellites to point in the right direction as they hurtle through space at around 18,000 miles per hour.
The European Space Agency has also just awarded Clyde Space a contract to develop a propulsion system that would maintain the orbit of the multiple satellites operating in a constellation so they can be guaranteed to remain in the right place throughout the mission.
Clyde Space is now one of the world’s leading developers and suppliers of football-sized satellites weighing around a kilo a fraction of the 1,000-plus kilo weights of the original satellites in space.