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Nowhere to hide – Nanosatellite technology drives new frontier in tracking down stolen vehicles

A UK start-up is developing a ground breaking new technology that will make tracking stolen vehicles faster and more reliable.

In 2018, more than 300 vehicles were stolen each day in the UK, with vehicle thefts more than doubling over the last five years according to Home Office figures. More than half of them will never be recovered.

Traditionally, vehicle trackers connect to a mobile digital technology known as the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) As reliable as GSM is for tracking vehicles, there are times when no signal is available. This could be due to areas that are particularly built up or remote, or due to land conditions.

Nantrack is about to change that using nanosatellite technology, and is the first company to join the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre United Kingdom (ESA BIC UK) at one of its new locations at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, at Sci-Tech Daresbury in the Liverpool City Region.

The company is taking advantage of an ever-growing network of nanosatellites to develop a vehicle tracking device that will allow near 100% coverage, even where GSM phone networks struggle. Nanosatellites, which are often not much larger than a shoebox, orbit closer to the earth than traditional, larger satellites, providing optimum conditions for land observation and communications and better protection from signal jamming. Using the data generated by these nanosatellites, the Nantrack device will locate stolen vehicles where GSM only tracking can often struggle.

Managed and co-funded by STFC through the UK Space Agency, the ESA BIC UK is a successful business incubation programme for space tech start-ups who are using space and satellite technologies to develop new products. Since opening at its original location in Harwell Campus in 2011 it has helped 80 start-up companies. The programme has now been rolled out to STFC’s other national sites at Daresbury Laboratory in the North West and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh to encourage the growth of new space clusters and strengthen local economies.

Ross Bagher, Director at Nantrack said: 

“For Nantrack, joining the ESA BIC UK gives us access not only to the space tech and expertise available at STFC and ESA, but also to the all-important financial and business support. The applications for our new technology are vast, from insurance companies and major logistics firms to any local taxi company, and being a member of the ESA BIC UK gives us valuable credibility with our potential customers and investors, which is so crucial to any start-up.”

Delyth Edwards, Business Incubation Programmes Manager at STFC, said: 

“By rolling out the ESA BIC programme across the UK, STFC is making it easier for start-ups, regardless of their location, to access the essential support they need to innovate and gain a competitive advantage in a global marketplace. Companies incubated at the ESA BIC UK have a 92% success rate, and I’m thrilled to be able to support Nantrack in the development of its pioneering technology as the first company to join the programme at Daresbury Laboratory.”

Since joining the ESA BIC UK, Nantrack is also taking advantage of the advanced digital prototyping and 3D printing facilities and expertise available onsite at Daresbury Laboratory to print the first prototypes of their device.

Ross added:

“For a small business, turning a new idea into a viable commercial reality can be a long, expensive and challenging process, and having access to these technologies on site here at Daresbury will help us accelerate the process significantly.”

Further information about support for SMEs at Daresbury Laboratory and across STFC more generally, can be found at the STFC website.

About the ESA BIC UK

With three business incubation sites at Harwell, Daresbury and Edinburgh, the ESA BIC UK is part of a growing network of successful ESA BICs across Europe.

Companies that join the ESA BIC UK benefit from £41,500 funding, access to IP, technologies and expertise generated by ESA research, as well as to STFC’s world class expertise and technical facilities, with dedicated business support.

Further information about the ESA BIC UK, how it can benefit your company can be found at the ESA BIC UK website, and more success stories here.

Daresbury Laboratory is part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Further information at the website.


Wendy Ellison
STFC Communications
Daresbury Laboratory
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Tel: 01925 603232


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