A GLASWEGIAN space tech start-up company is using “game-changing” technology in a bid to make the world a “safer place” on multiple fronts.

Space Aye is yet another example of how Scotland is thriving in the space sector – with a site at the northernmost point of the Shetland Islands approved as the UK’s first licensed spaceport for vertical rocket launches just last month.

Speaking to The National, Space Aye’s CEO Chris Newlands discussed how his company is helping to tackle the climate crisis, the future of Scotland’s space sector and why it’s such an exciting time for the industry.

In simple terms, Space Aye uses technology to merge real-time satellite imagery with “Internet of Things” (IOT) data.

Specifically, IOT describes the network of physical objects which are embedded with sensors, software and other technologies to connect and exchange data and systems via the internet.

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“Space Aye is all about the ability to connect and merge real time satellite imagery with what is happening now and today,” Newlands (below) says.

The National: Chris Newlands is the CEO of Space Aye

“So effectively using IOT devices which means from a privacy perspective you have to opt in so it’s down to people to apply for that.

“But fundamentally what it means is if you open up a map, rather than a picture of a map, there would be a real-time satellite image of traffic for example.”

Helping to save the world

Newlands explains that “CCTV from space” is one way of thinking how the technology they use can be thought about.

He uses the example of how it could help tackle wildfires – a particularly prominent issue which hit large swathes of Europe and North America last summer.

The National: Flames burn a forest near the village of Sykorrahi, near Alexandroupolis town, in the north-eastern Evros region, Greece (Achilleas Chiras/AP)Wildfires swept across Greece last summer, often raging on for days at a time. 

The CEO explained: “Here’s an example. We’re currently talking to a number of states in North America about wildfires and how using space and our strategy could help save the planet.

“What happens now, in command and control terms, is they will look at a fire, figure out where it is and then draw a line on a map. They then print these maps out and they’re given to the firefighters.

“If you can imagine a situation where not only do you have the satellite image, but you can actually see the flames and the smoke then you can identify where the firefighters, responders and vehicles are so you can move assets around, keep them safe and put the fire out quicker.

“If you’re tackling as many fires as we had in Europe last year, then you need to know where all your assets are.”

As it says on Space Aye’s website: “We focus on the firefighter, not just the fire.”

Indeed, as Newlands points out, helping to put large wildfires out much quicker could have a huge impact.

In 2021, data showed that carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires rose to a record high of 1.76 billion tons.

What’s next for Space Aye?

Newlands is due to make an appearance at the State of Open Con 24 – a major UK technology conference – in London on February 7 where he will focus on harnessing geospatial data.

The event itself is expected to include more than 170 speakers, featuring the CEOs and founders of more than 20 various companies.

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“It’s a very exciting year for us. What we’re doing is game-changing on so many fronts and we’re talking to some of the biggest technology companies in the world,” Newlands says.

Although he’s keen to stress how real-time satellite imagery can help climate change, he believes it can be applied in a variety of different ways.

“We’re talking to police forces, if you imagine how this could be used from a people trafficking perspective, for wildlife poaching and for personal security and safety.

“This could be a game changer to keep the world safer.”