The DRIFT project (www.driftextremes.com) is led by Dr Nathan Smith, a Research Fellow at Coventry University in the UK. It integrates current understanding of the psychology of life in extremes with advances in modern digital technologies, to develop a psychosocial support tool for people living, working and playing in remote and isolated environments. The long-term vision of the project is to ultimately enable humans to thrive on the moon, mars and beyond.
Mark Evans’ previous 49-day expedition in Arabia in 2016 (along with an expedition in Antarctica) provided the field data to help develop the DRIFT application. Subsequent analysis of the data saw the publication of the paper ‘Monitoring daily events, coping strategies, and emotion during a desert expedition in the Middle East’ in 2018 in the international journal Stress and Health.
To further build on and develop this initial research, in 2022 the Heart of Arabia expedition will work closely with the Drift design team to field test the DRIFT prototype mobile application. After consultation with many who currently work at extremes, the tool has been designed to help expeditioners monitor, diagnose and take steps to optimise their behaviour, health and performance whilst operating in extreme environments.
This work has implications for ensuring the safe and healthy functioning of the various occupational and recreational groups that work in extreme settings. By using the tool, and providing data on stress, coping and self-regulation from the field, the Heart of Arabia expedition team are also contributing to a much larger aim, to build the knowledge base, data and collective psychological and social intelligence to one day power artificial intelligence solutions that help humans live, survive and thrive in the most extreme environments, whether that be on an Earth affected by climate change or remote planet such as Mars. This is an ambitious project at the forefront of interdisciplinary research on humans at the limits.
The benefits of this work are only realised by being able to study pioneering and intrepid people that choose to challenge themselves in the world’s most demanding environments.
Further to the work on the DRIFT mobile application, the team at Coventry University, under the leadership of Dr Smith aim to announce a further extreme environment remote location artificial intelligence led psychological support tool that is currently at an advanced stage of research and development. As with the DRIFT application, The Heart of Arabia expedition will undertake field trials of the new tool.