Near Space Technology Brings Health Care To Navajo Nation - InformationWeek

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11/19/2007
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Near Space Technology Brings Health Care To Navajo Nation

The partnership with the SkySite constellation marks the first time the communications system will be used to monitor health.

The Navajo Nation said Monday that it will use near space technology to fight near epidemic levels of diabetes.

The Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project, the Space Data Corporation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant program have joined forces to help monitor glucose levels in patients with through communications systems that work in remote areas. The launch, announced this week, marks the first time that SkySite constellation will be used to monitor health.

Members of the Navajo Nation, many of whom lack access to telephones, will receive glucose monitors that transmit information to balloons flying at near space altitudes of around 65,000 feet -- above air traffic elevations but beneath satellites.

The Space Data Corporation's balloons are launched throughout the day. They carry transceivers and create a constellation over the Navajo Nation. They send information back in parachute packages, which can be located using GPS.

For the Navajo, the balloons will cover an area of 7,205 square miles where the population density is just 3.15 people per square mile. The system combines electronics, industrial weather balloons and GPS. Health care practitioners will be able to monitor patients' glucose levels and provide advice as well as emergency services.

The energy industry and the U.S. Air Force use the space communications technology as well. Oil and gas companies use it for monitoring pipeline and storage tank alarms, production automation, asset tracking, and field communications in remote areas. Electric companies use the technology for equipment monitoring and meter reading.

The Federal Aviation Administration allows SkySite to launch without restriction, since the system is small, light and not considered a risk for aircraft.

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