In Brief

UK Space Agency set to fight malaria from space

Government announces launch of ten new space-based projects tackling wide range of global issues

UK scientists are hoping to develop an out-of-this-world solution to the global scourge of malaria - by using space satellites to detect mosquitos’ breeding locations.

In a newly released statement, the government has announced that the UK Space Agency (UKSA) is to pump £3.4m of new funding into ten “leading-edge projects that back UK academics using space to tackle global development problems”.

These problems including the spread of malaria, which caused 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone, with a total of 228 million cases reported worldwide, according to latest figures from the World Health Organization.

The government says that “using satellite, air-borne and ground-based sensing technology, academics at The Open University will detect where mosquitoes are most likely to breed”.

Once these hot spots are identified, “sprayer drones” will then release biocontrol agents that will kill mosquito larvae “without affecting other species”. 

The pioneering new projects also include the development of “space-based solutions that will help protect wildlife habitats in Kenya, and another that will improve resilience to flooding in Bangladesh”, says the government statement.

The UKSA’s International Partnership Programme (IPP) is funding the various schemes, which are intended to “help developing countries while building effective partnerships that can lead to growth opportunities for the UK space sector”.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said that “from flooding to climate change, around the world people continue to be affected by crises that are having a profound impact on their countries’ economies and their lives.

“These ten new projects have the potential to provide solutions to the world’s biggest development problems by using the latest and most high-tech space technologies such as satellites, and help improve millions of people’s lives in developing countries.”

The IPP’s head of international relations Liz Cox added that the projects “not only demonstrate the value of satellite solutions and improving the lives of people on the ground, but also facilitating effective alliances between the UK and international organisations”.

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