06.02.2017 change 06.02.2017

Space-robotic assistance for the Baltic Sea

Wastewater, wartime bombs, mines and chemical weapons have made the Baltic one of the most polluted seas in the world. To combat the pollution, we can take advantage of robotic and satellite technologies, which is the goal of at the Baltic Challenge platform.

Baltic Challenge initiative is organized by the European Space Foundation. In the project, robotic and satellite technologies will be used to combat the pollution of the Baltic Sea, which begins to be a real threat to health.

Huge pollution of the Baltic Sea with agricultural, industrial and urban wastewater has made the Baltic Sea one of the most polluted seas in the world. The second problem of Baltic, since 2000 considered an ecological bomb, are munitions dumped in the sea by the Allies after World War II - bombs and mines, and most of all chemical weapons, the amount of which is estimated at more than 60 thousand tones.

Experts estimate that the release of ten to twenty percent of these substances may cause the Baltic Sea to become a "dead sea" for several hundred years. Containers with chemical weapons were supposed to survive 150-200 years, but the degradation process has already begun. Over the past 20 years there have been more than 120 accidents in which the victims were mainly fishermen burned with mustard gas.

A separate issue, which caught the attention of experts from the European Space Foundation, were Polish water resources. Contrary to popular opinion, Poland is a country very poor in water. Annual amount per capita is approx. 1,600 m3 (1.6 million litres), while in most European countries, freshwater resources are at a level of approx. 5,000 m3 (5 million litres). This is due not only to less favourable geoclimatic situation, but also errors and omissions in water management. Additional economic difficulty is the fact that in Poland only 30 percent rivers and lakes have very good and good ecological status. Other waters - contaminated with waste from agricultural fertilizers, and industrial and municipal waste water - are of moderate, poor or very poor quality.

"Unexplored waters and the bottom of the Baltic Sea, problems with their purity and the danger of contamination, as well as Polish limited water resources inspired us to initiate a long-term project, which aims to identify directions for the use of modern space and robotic technologies in efforts to explore and exploit the aquatic environment" - said Maciej W. Iwankiewicz from the board of the European Space Foundation.

"We want to create a platform - an environment that will associate good solutions from the space and robotic sector with research and problem-solving related to the aquatic environment. We will look for business activities, in which they will find practical applications" - Iwankiewicz told PAP.

The system would use the information from several sources: satellites in orbit; sensors on buoys; data collected by drones and robots working on the seabed and reaching below the layer of sea mud. "All these data can be collected on one platform and used, for example, to create maps, and monitor the situation in different places on the seabed" - Iwankiewicz explained in an interview with PAP.

Such solutions would not only allow to monitor the status and flow of water, including any contaminants in the marine environment and inland waters, but also enable effective management of water resources.

As part of the new project, the European Space Foundation wants to cooperate with representatives of the space, robotic and computer industry - institutions that can process large amounts of data. On the other hand, it wants to cooperate with companies and institutions that need this type of data.

The initiative will be launched in June, coinciding with the Baltic Summit 2017 in Gdańsk, which will be attended by representatives of the world of politics, business and science from the Baltic countries. Experts will discuss the problems of the Baltic Sea and robotic and space technologies supporting their solutions. The Summit will be combined with a presentation and competition of satellite solutions, drones and underwater robots, enabling the exploration and exploitation of the aquatic environment, as well as workshops for companies interested in the subject.

Information on the project is available at: www.balticchallenge.eu

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