UK achieves success in European space competitions with top prize and 4 major awards

The University of Strathclyde has emerged as the winner of Europe's biggest space technology innovation competitions, that recognise great ideas with commercial potential.

Strathclyde was the overall and UK regional winner of the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) for a low-cost early detection system for UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

Out of a field of over 500 entries from 17 countries, five UK finalists came home from the ESNC awards in Madrid with an award and the top prize of €10,000 to invest in their technology.

Other UK winning ideas include a smartphone sleeve to enable access to the Galileo Public Regulatory Service (an encrypted navigation service for governmental authorised users), a UK wildfire monitoring service and a smart navigation device for cyclists.

Dr Carmine Clemente, Domenico Gaglione and Christos Ilioudis from the Sensor Signal Processing and Security Labs at Strathclyde Space Institute, developed the idea with support from the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications (SoXSA).

Dr Clemente said: "It is incredible to have won first place, especially seeing the calibre of entries here tonight. The competition is an exciting opportunity for us to accelerate our idea to a market-ready application."

Dr Malcolm Macdonald, Director of SoXSA, said: "This award is further evidence that Strathclyde is a leading international technological university at the heart of the thriving and rapidly growing Scottish space sector, and is due recognition for the work that Carmine and his team have been doing."

The project is a 'silent lookout' system that uses low-cost sensors and satellite navigation technology for the early detection of UAVs, addressing growing concerns over public safety, security and privacy.

The team is working on a passive radar system using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals for micro-UAV detection, classification and tracking. The Passive Bi-Static Radar (PBR) works by exploiting sources of electromagnetic energy to accomplish radar tasks such as target detection, parameter estimation and recognition.

Whilst collision and crash avoidance is of paramount concern, authorities are also concerned about UAVs available in the leisure market being used to cause large-scale civilian casualties. The 'silent lookout' system could be deployed as a perimeter around a football stadium or open-air concert venue with the sensors creating a 'detection arc' at a distance that would allow authorities enough time to take appropriate action.

Stuart Martin, CEO, Satellite Applications Catapult and Chair of the UK judging panel said:

"This is a great result and reflects the quality of innovation in satellite applications coming out of the UK today. The winning ideas won the backing of experts from across the European satellite sector who will be offering significant support to help the teams realise their ambitions and build successful businesses."

Other UK winners were:

Nottingham Scientific Ltd and QinetiQ – Winner, BMVI* Special Prize: PRS applications – reliable services for a secure digital society. The world is increasingly reliant on positon and time data from satellite navigation systems, but the threat to the use of this technology from interference and spoofing is growing rapidly. The new Public Regulatory Service (PRS) provided by Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system will enable governments to be more resilient to global satellite navigation system threats.

Nottingham Scientific Ltd (NSL) in partnership with QinetiQ have been awarded the PRS prize for their innovative mobile phone 'GRIPPA' sleeve which has been specifically developed to help government authorised users access the PRS more easily and securely for critical applications. Potential customers for PRS include the emergency services, critical national infrastructure, law enforcement, public security and defence operations.

University of Manchester – Winner, Copernicus Masters Sustainable Living Challenge

Dr Gail Millin-Chalabi, Dr Ioanna Tantanasi and Dr Stefania Amici from the School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED) at the University of Manchester, won first place in the Copernicus Masters Sustainable Living Challenge, with EnviroSAR, a UK wildfire monitoring service that uses satellite Earth observation data.

Fire and Rescue Services spend around £55 million every year fighting UK wildfires that damage unique habitats, such as the UK's moorlands and heathlands, and discolour drinking water supplies creating clean-up costs for water companies.

The EnviroSAR service will help to understand patterns of UK wildfires, target land management, peat restoration, reseeding and reduce water discolouration and its associated costs.

The EnviroSAR monitoring and detection tool is based on a new analysis technique developed by the team to interpret Synthetic Aperture Radar and optical data from Sentinel Earth Observation satellites to deliver 'burnt-area' imagery.

Blubel – Winner, European Space Agency Space Solutions® Prize

One of the key barriers to cycling for many city-dwellers is poor knowledge of safe, cycle-friendly routes. Blubel is a smart navigation device that can intuitively guide cyclists, using a mix of sounds and lights along the cycle-friendly routes. The device enables exchange of information between the cyclists building social navigation that is dynamic to the cyclists' preferable routes and adapts to the ever-changing conditions on the roads in real-time.

The UK ESNC is managed by the Satellite Applications Catapult with the support of the UK Space Agency, Innovate UK, Marks & Clerk Intellectual Property Services, Airbus Defence and Space, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) Harwell, Ashby House, the Royal Institute of Navigation and Allen, Everest and Associates.

Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth at the UK Space Agency said:

"We rock at innovation here in the UK. All the winners demonstrate the fantastic potential for innovators to take advantage of the opportunities presented by satellite technology. The competition itself helps to showcase and ultimately grow their ideas as businesses. The UK is proud to have such innovators and hope that they inspire others to realise what they stand to gain by having a go."

Andy Proctor, Innovation Lead for Satellite Technology at Innovate UK said:

"The University of Strathclyde's innovative concept in the use of GNSS signals has great potential to be a step-change in low-cost monitoring, and a real example of why Innovate UK sponsors the ESNC. As a judge, it was clear that this idea has great potential to move quickly from its research roots to a revenue potential, and winning the prize will enable this team to take the next steps on this path."

Mark Stevens, Key Account Manager, Navigation & Ground Systems, Airbus Defence and Space said:

"I'm delighted that the University of Strathclyde team have achieved this well deserved recognition. Their technically innovative use of GNSS signals as part of a Passive Bi-Static Radar System potentially provides an exciting new method in the early detection of micro UAVs."

Tim Watkin, Partner at Marks & Clerk, a leading firm of intellectual property (IP) experts that sponsors the competition, said:

"Year after year, ESNC attracts entries of the highest quality, that display real innovative flair. The team from Strathclyde were particularly impressive, and we look forward to supporting them with intellectual property advice as they work towards bringing their concept to market."

Matt Edwards, Relationship Manager – Business Incubation at STFC said:

"STFC is committed to innovation and has supported the ESNC for many years, evaluating entries and encouraging applicants to enter the ESA Business Incubation Centres. We were highly impressed by the Strathclyde team's innovative 'alternative' use of GNSS and the commercial potential that came with it."


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