Mountaineering accidents claim hundreds of lives every year. Some of the most dangerous climbs are in isolated and hard-to-reach regions of the world. With new satellite-based technology, powered by the European Space Agency (ESA), climbers' health can be constantly tracked, even to the top of Mount Everest.
Using a satellite-based health monitoring kit developed by the Canadian company March Networks, with financial help from ESA, a group of climbers attempting to master the world's tallest peak in the Himalayas will be able to breathe a little easier than the hundreds who have followed in Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's pioneering footsteps.
|New satellite technology could help save lives in this forbidding mountainous region|
© Source: ESA
The almost 8 900m climb to the top of Everest has claimed almost one hundred lives since the New Zealander Hillary and his Nepalese Sherpa Norgay reached the peak in 1953. This new technology will keep track of the blood oxygen levels (SpO2), heart rates, blood pressure and body temperatures of the climbers. The data will be stored on specially designed personal digital assistants (PDAs) and ultimately transmitted via satellite to a dedicated website.
Climbers must minimise the weight they carry in such expeditions. For this reason, it was necessary to develop a well-equipped health monitoring kit without the extra kilos of video conferencing technology typically used in the tele-health field, the designers explain.
Ben Webster, a Canadian climber and leader of the expedition, says the more information, the better in such dangerous ascents. “By using the wireless tele-health system, we will not only see first-hand how our bodies are reacting to the exertion, but we will also be able to track the data, be cognisant of significant changes or trends, and be able to make informed decisions based upon that information,” he said in a prepared statement.
Webster and fellow climbers will document their adventure for a Discovery Channel programme ‘The Everest Story'. The trek began in late March and the climbers are expected to reach the summit in mid-May. Using the special TeLeCare system developed to work with the kit, a nurse will be able to perform remote patient diagnosis and monitoring via satellite linkup.
ESA's financial assistance and experience in the space domain has proved invaluable to many projects taking advantage of space-based technology. The Agency is an independent body with close ties to the European Union and a shared vision to strengthen Europe for the benefit of its citizens. Because of the expanding role of space in Europe's security and economic growth, these ties have strengthened over the years. Guaranteeing Europe's access to space is becoming more important as satellites are increasingly used to improve communications and navigation, monitor the environment, strengthen technology and increase scientific knowledge.