Space for Good

Posted on January 31, 2024

How space assets can save lives and protect the public

by Evie Lapworth

At the ‘Connected Innovation Conference’ last year, organised by New Anglia LEP and hosted at Adastral Park, East Anglia’s business leaders gathered for the launch of the Space East cluster. It is undeniable how attractive the eastern region has become for business opportunities in space and satellite technologies, and across so many sectors.

But surprisingly perhaps was one project mentioned by Lisa Perkins, BT’s Adastral Park and Research Realisation Director, that had just secured some significant funding from the Business Applications and Space Solutions Programme (BASS) programme by European Space Agency (ESA) and UK Space Agency (UKSA). The project called ‘INST’, short for Instantly Networked Smart Triage, is working to help emergency services better manage Mass Casualty Incidents.

To learn more about it, I took time to watch a presentation given by the project’s Suffolk-based Director of Communications, Joseph Spear, when he spoke at the very first ‘Adastral Presents’ event, on the topic of Space and Satellite.

In a large room packed full of technologists, you could hear a pin drop as Joseph begn to outline the origins of the INST project; starting with the 22 people who lost their lives in the Manchester Arena bombing and explaining how the public inquiry had pinpointed the lack of coordination between police, ambulance and fire and rescue services which ensued in the chaos. But as Joseph continued his presentation, it soon became crystal clear how space technology, and particularly how data communications sent via cross-linked satellites in low earth orbit, gave this project a unique dimension which will answer some of the recommendations of the Manchester Arena Inquiry.

“Instantly Networked Smart Triage is a novel service enabled by satellite communications that provides real-time data to emergency services to save lives in mass casualty incidents. INST is enabled by a low-cost lightweight device that can be associated with a casualty to indicate where they are, how urgently they require medical attention, and to report the number of casualties,” said Mr. Spear.

“If INST can save just one life, then it will be worth it,” he added. A point of view certainly shared by many people including ESA’s Technical Officer, Volker Schumacher, who oversees the project for ESA.

BT invited the INST project and Space East to work alongside the Adastral Park team at Suffolk Show 2023, where judges from the Suffolk Agricultural Association awarded BT first prize for Best Stand in the Show and Best Stand Representing Education.

Led by Innovation Martlesham company, Mvine, the INST project partners have organised workshops for representatives of all blue light services in Greater Manchester, to fully understand the needs of frontline officers and incident commanders, and to improve the design for hardware and software. They will perform stringent lab-scale tests on the innovation before they need to demonstrate it in a simulated mass casualty incident exercise. Additionally, Greater Manchester Local Resilience Forum is watching the project closely. The project partners are on schedule to deliver INST in the summer of 2024.

Evie Lapworth is a freelance writer based in East Anglia.

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