SCOTLAND’S satellite industry could help revolutionise the world’s response to natural disasters, potentially saving lives, it is claimed.

Dr Ciara McGrath, from the University of Strathclyde, said Glasgow and Scotland are already at the forefront of the push to develop such specialised satellites.

Ms McGrath was presenting her research on the use of satellites the size of shoeboxes, called CubeSats, to track natural disasters at a VisitScotland Business Events’ Innovate Space event at the University of St Andrews.

The research associate in mechanical and aerospace engineering said: “Scotland has a rich heritage of innovation and engineering but the growth in the Scottish satellite sector has really taken off in the last 10 years.

“At the moment satellites tend to follow a set path in orbit around the Earth as it takes a lot of fuel to move them, but there are new smaller satellites (CubeSats) being built in Glasgow which are easier to move around, and there are more being built here than any other city in Europe."

READ MORE: Scots space firm wins "revolutionary" first launch contract

She said: “It’s like moving a drone rather than a 747.

“With easier manoeuvrability, they could be used to learn about natural disasters, such as forest fires and hurricanes, by tracking their movements and rapidly relaying data to first responders.

“In doing so Scotland could help revolutionise the world’s response to natural disasters and potentially save lives.”

There are currently 132 organisations engaged in space-related activities in Scotland, including the headquarters of 83 UK space industry firms with a total income of £140 million.

The UK Space Agency and Highlands and Islands Enterprise last year announced funding for the UK’s first spaceport in Sutherland which will launch Scottish-built satellites into space by early 2020.

Glasgow miniature satellite maker Clyde Space is one of the leaders in the field and was behind Scotland’s first space satellite, UKube-1, launched in Kazakhstan in July 2014.

READ MORE: Clyde Space in mission to identify bush fires

Currently, the only satellites that can provide real-time coverage of natural disasters are larger “geo-stationary” satellites which sit in a set orbit about 36,000km (22,370 miles) above the surface and follow the rotation of the planet.

Fiona MacKinnon, of VisitScotland Business Events, said: “Scotland has a hugely successful and thriving space sector, by the year 2030 it is expected that the space industry will grow its value to £4 billion.”