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Highlights from the European Space Solutions Conference

By Peter Fitzgibbon - 15th March 2013 - 10:13

Recent blogs from consultants at technology and management consultancy Helios outline some of the key issues discussed at last December's European Space Solutions Conference in London (

Philip Church outlines presentations that focussed on the benefits that space is delivering or is set to deliver to the aviation sector

* In March 2011, the EGNOS 'Safety-of-Life' service was certified for use in aviation. Since then there has been substantial effort from the European GNSS Agency (GSA) and European ANSPs to publish instrument approach procedures that benefit from the reduced minima that EGNOS enables at those aerodromes not currently equipped with precision approach capability. It was evident from the presentations that the contribution from EGNOS to improved landing capabilities is beginning to gain momentum in Europe. Presenters from NATS and ENAV demonstrated that EGNOS is one element of a future PBN strategy that can deliver real operational benefits to aviation as well as increase safety.

* Looking ahead to future navigation and surveillance demands from Space, the presentation from Rockwell Collins put forward a clear argument for more than one GNSS constellation - in particular, the need for multiple frequencies to alleviate signal interference and signal unavailability. The availability of multi-frequency GNSS enables reduced dependence on terrestrial navigation aids and offers the potential for increased global GNSS aviation use.

* Space can also benefit aviation through Earth Observation – an exciting area that is not traditionally the focus for aviation users. Two presentations demonstrated that there are real opportunities to combine the elements of satellite based navigation, communication and earth observation to provide real-time weather information. This in turn can aid flight planning and increase cockpit awareness of weather related information such as thunderstorms and volcanic ash clouds. The eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April 2010 caused havoc within the European ATM system with many flights cancelled in areas in which the volcanic cloud drifted. Better use of space based observation reports combined with new cockpit displays will provide pilots with the real time weather updates to support more tactical decision-making.

As an unofficial side event to the European Space Solutions Conference, Helios organised the first in a series of GNSS-Rail User Group meetings. Here, Gavin Fourie reviews the discussion

* The aim of the workshop was to initiate contact between the European GNSS Agency (GSA) and the rail industry with the ultimate goal of accelerating the adoption of European GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) in rail. The railway industry is important to the GSA, which is an agency of the European Commission charged with maximising the return on European taxpayers’ investment in Galileo and EGNOS.

* Through a number of presentations the GSA explained how EGNOS and Galileo may be able to provide various train location services to the rail industry. GPS is already in widespread use in the rail industry. For example in the UK approximately 25% of British trains are equipped with GPS and providing train location information for applications such as door opening and passenger information systems on board the train. The ensuing discussion focussed on how European GNSS could further assist the various businesses represented in the room from around Europe. For example GNSS may form part of the future ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) baseline 3 signalling system, with general agreement that GNSS would likely act as a technology to enhance the balise (electronic beacon) based system rather than replace it. Some representatives were particularly interested in the possibility that GNSS (augmented with e.g. inertial navigation systems, map matching, and/or odometry) enabled low density line signalling. This could significantly cut costs over conventional systems and thereby make low density lines more economically viable.

* The GNSS-Rail User Group will meet again early in 2013 to continue the vital dialogue between the space sector and the railway industry. These events should ensure that the GSA’s strategy continues to be aligned with the railway industry’s priorities. If you would like to take part in future GNSS-Rail User Groups please contact Gavin Fourie at [email protected] for more details.

One of the largest downstream GNSS markets is Road, both in terms of volume and public utility. The Road and Traffic Management session proved to be one of the highlights of the conference, as Cyril Matti reports

* With the advancement of consumer electronics, the Road industry has been experiencing incredibly rapid change. From the first in-vehicle navigation systems to the take-over of nomadic Personal Navigation Devices (PND) and mass-market usage of GNSS, we now observe a new trend towards the usage of smartphone navigation. Free data and location is now information we all take for granted. In addition, vehicle manufacturers now seem convinced that there is value in offering users new connected services and in-vehicle connectivity is predicted to reach 90% by 2020. This major shift will change the way we interact with the car and is likely to foster the take-up of new applications. For instance, traffic information, eco-driving, vehicle management, pay-as-you-drive insurances or road user charging are applications that will greatly benefit from enhanced data connectivity.

* In the meantime, satellite navigation is being improved by the launch of new constellations, such as the Russian GLONASS, the European Galileo and the Chinese Beidou. These new GNSS services have the potential to improve accuracy, availability and integrity. Multi-constellation devices will significantly improve positioning, especially in the urban canyons of big cities. Vehicle manufacturers must therefore plan ahead given the long lead-time. In addition, the European road tolling operator association ASECAP started to develop a road++map for GNSS applications in road charging.

* Last but not least, the audience was also reminded from ERTICO how soon the eCall regulation is arriving. This presents a golden opportunity for the first generation of eCall devices to benefit from the new GNSS systems as it will clearly deliver performance advantages as well as providing impetus to vehicle manufacturer to implement other embedded applications.

Photo: ©2012 European Space Solutions

Reports reproduced courtesy of Helios, the UK-based management and technology consultancy supporting governments and businesses in the aviation, space, telecoms, rail, and maritime sectors. More at

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