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How can Space Technology benefit Mobility

Posted by Pierre-Henri Le Besnerais on May 21, 2021 9:52:23 AM

In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis disrupted mobility on a global scale, preventing people and goods from traveling between countries. As the effects of the pandemic linger well into the year, the Space Industry will play a key role to support the economic recovery of the rail and sea transport sectors.

1 - Building safer and more sustainable rail networks from space

With the increasing concerns about global warming, railways are critical in supporting the global movement of goods in a more sustainable way. However, in some remote areas, very limited terrestrial connectivity is available to monitor the railway traffic, causing safety and efficiency issues. In Brazil for instance, rail operators are unable to track locomotives on more than 50% of the country’s network.

To tackle this issue, Global Navigation Satellite Systems allow train operators to control the traffic and monitor the safety of the rail networks in those “dark spots”. In Europe, the modernisation of railways led to a wide shift digitization of the sector. Satellites are used to locate trains on low-traffic lines, saving costs on track equipment and dedicated telecom networks. In Germany, where 70% of Deutsche Bahn’s tracks run through wooded areas, satellite imagery is also used to detect threats from vegetation and hazardous trees.

2 - Using satellite data to fight illegal fishing and pollution

Similar trends are also observed in the maritime industry, where the authorities rely on the AIS (Automatic Identification System) to monitor the increasing traffic across the world's oceans. This tracking system uses radio signals to locate and prevent the collision of large cargo and passenger ships. However, this device can be deactivated, and the Earth curvature is limiting the range of this tool to about 74 kilometers.

Orbiting all around the Earth, satellites can solve this problem by increasing the coverage of the AIS and tracking ships that travel beyond coastal radars. Hence, Space applications open doors to the development of new services other than collision avoidance. For instance, a Finnish company named ICEYE uses a radar-based technology to locate icebergs and oil spills from space. Since 2019, the cubesats of Unseenlabs can identify illegal fishing boats and assist rescue operations from the vintage of Space, even when they deactivated their radio emitters.

In the future, Space-based technologies will also play a key role in managing passenger transport, automated cars and traffic management of our Smart Cities. On the 23rd of June, our Space4Mobility event will be focused on the potential benefits of the Space Industry to prepare for the mobility of tomorrow.

Topics: Space

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