February 25, 2018, 3:50 am
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UK space tech to help fisherfolk, disaster mitigation

When Typhoon Ondoy hit the country on September 26, 2009, space tech came in handy.

The deadly typhoon brought nine hours of torrential rains which caused massive floods – the worst to hit Manila and surrounding provinces for 40 years.

Eighty percent of Manila was submerged and a state of calamity was declared in eight regions of the country as 435,000 people were displaced and more than 240 lost their lives.

An emergency communications aid agency, Telecoms Sans Frontieres, swiftly deployed a team from the regional base in Bangkok, Thailand. It installed an emergency communications center to support the National Disaster Coordinating Council in Manila and provide technical assistance to facilitate aid coordination and enable relief workers to communicate right at the heart of the affected area.

Telecoms Sans Frontieres is sponsored by Inmarsat (International Maritime Satellite), a British satellite telecommunications company that provides telephone and data services to users worldwide, via portable or mobile terminals which communicate with ground stations through telecommunications satellites.

It wasn’t the first and the last time that space tech was brought in to help.

“When two deadly cyclones hit the country over a two week period, resulting in loss of life and serious damage to terrestrial communications infrastructure, Philippine authorities were able to utilize Inmarsat’s mobile connectivity services to assess the damage and identify the needs of those regions most affected,” said Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat chief executive officer. 

“With the invaluable support of the UK Space Agency, we have been able to pre-equip disaster response teams in the Philippines with vital satellite communications solutions,” Pearce added.

“The United Kingdom is proud to work with the Philippine government to find solutions to a number of pressing development issues in food security, environmental resilience and public health, among many others,” Daniel Pruce, British ambassador to the Philippines, said in a press statement. 

“With combined strengths, we are geared to combat shared challenges, with the promise of helping the most vulnerable communities,”Pruce said.

The initiative is part of improved disaster response, and along with tropical disease control, are among the goals of 10 new projects involving British space organizations, Science Minister Sam Gyimah said.

The UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Program uses UK space expertise projects worth £38 million and led by a diverse range or organizations from the UK’s growing space sector working together to grow the UK’s share of the global space market to 10 percent by 2030.

They include large companies such as Inmarsat and CGI, to start-ups such as Guildford-based Earth-i.   

“The UK’s space sector is going from strength to strength. It pioneers new technology and provides jobs for 40,000,” saidGyimah. “The space sector’s capabilities are being put to use to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges.

“The UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Program will help developing countries tackle big issues like disaster relief and disease control, while showcasing the services and technology on offer from our leading space businesses,”Gyimah added.

The International Partnership Program is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Global Challenges Research Fund: a £1.5 billion fund from the UK Government that supports cutting-edge research and innovation on global issues affecting developing countries.
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