Space technology for Alpine activities

October 24, 2002

Paris, 23 Oct 2002

22 October 2002

Locating cracks in tunnel walls, monitoring landslides and providing high-insulation clothing are just some examples benefiting from space technology. Many such innovative applications will be discussed by ESA and European companies at the workshop 'How space technology can provide effective solutions for challenges in mountains'' in Innsbruck, Austria, 28-29 October.

The Roboclimber, a tele-operated climbing robot for remote investigation of slope and landslide stability could be particularly relevant for mountaineers. It can automatically perform geological surveys by drilling holes 15-20 metres deep, a common practice to verify and consolidate the stability of rocky walls and slopes. It can even work at heights of 80 metres and inclination of 60°-80°. The application uses know-how gained from ESA missions in the fields of robotics and satellite attitude control. Roboclimber is not only faster than conventional manual inspection but more importantly, it can be sent into unsafe and harsh environments.

The ground penetrating radar system originally developed by ESA for planetary rover application on the Moon, has been adapted to assess the rock mass integrity behind walls such as in mountain tunnels and in mine shafts. The technology to penetrate ground and produce images of hidden structures, can locate fine cracks which could lead to tunnel collapse. Currently the integrity of tunnels and mines have been verified by visual surface inspection and rely on human experience and intuition. This new technology can "see" through walls and roofs to identify cracks from a few millimetres to a depth of more than one metre below the surface. In Canada, the Harsh Environments Initiative has obtained very successful results as part of the ESA Technology Transfer Programme.

"More than 150 successful transfers of space technology are already solving problems in non-space fields, and we have a portfolio of another 450 ready for transfer and licensing," says Dr Pierre Brisson, Head of ESA's Technology Transfer and Promotion Office. "We want to create a tighter link to industry and to work with them to find innovative solutions to their problems profiting from already available space technologies."

The workshop is organised by ESA's Technology Transfer and Promotion Office with the Austrian Space Agency and ENVEO, an Austrian company in Innsbruck. It is intended to be a creative session between ESA and industry to identify areas where space technology could provide effective solutions to challenges faced in Alpine and other mountain regions.

Industrial companies and organisations involved in systems for mountain activity are invited to participate. Firms from Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands have already confirmed their attendance. Suggested topics include:

  • safety and security for search and rescue operations, navigation, avalanche and mudslide warning and prevention. Safety in tunnels, on roads and of cable cars
  • leisure and tourism including necessity for warmth and insulation, communication and navigation. Alpine sport safety: skiing, rock climbing, hand gliding and trekking
  • water resources covering water supply, storage and management and water quality
  • new materials related to Alpine safety, adventure and extreme sports equipment
  • ecology covering animal tracking, forest monitoring and flora production

    The target of the workshop is to identify a number of new projects related to Alpine activities and to establish potential partnerships. Projects initiated as a result of the workshop may be funded from a variety of sources including ESA's technology transfer programme.

    Refer to the ENVEO homepage for more information or contact:

    Helmut Rott, Thomas Nagler
    Exlgasse 39/31, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
    Tel / Fax: +43 (0)512 937375
    Mobile: +43 (0)676 9361565

    David Raitt
    Technology Transfer and Promotion Office
    European Space Agency - ESTEC
    Keplerlaan 1, PO Box 299, NL-2200 AG Noordwijk, The Netherlands

    European Space Agency ml


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