EGNOS and aviation ready for take off in 2010

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16 April 2010

The aviation industry is preparing to use European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) once it becomes certified for the sector later this year, said speakers at Galileo Application Days.

The aviation sector is one of the primary reasons EGNOS was launched by the European Community. The EGNOS Open Signal became operational in October 2009. The safety-of-life signal is expected to be certified for use in civil aviation later this year, said Hans de With, Market Development Officer with the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA).

Okko Bleeker, the director of Rockwell Collins’ research and development in Europe, described some emerging EGNOS applications. © Tim Reynolds Okko Bleeker, the director of Rockwell Collins’ research and development in Europe, described some emerging EGNOS applications. © Tim Reynolds

About 40 EGNOS procedures for landing aircraft with EGNOS have been designed in France in preparation for when the satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) can be used, he said at the event’s aviation session on 4 March.

“The European Commission is dedicated to extending EGNOS geographically and a range of organisations – including the GSA – are working to facilitate its market adoption,” he said.

Studies have shown that the full adoption of EGNOS-enabled flight procedures, such as localised performance with vertical guidance (LPV), could produce savings of up to €4 billion in Europe.

Stefano Scarda from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry stated that with EGNOS “the aviation community has been involved from the beginning” and that now there was a need to “implement all the steps needed to ensure that full use can be made” of the system. The quality of the EGNOS Open Service – available since October 2009 for general applications where safety of life is not an issue – is excellent, he said.

“The actual performance is much higher than the defined specification,” said Scarda.

Industry keynotes

Okko Bleeker, the director of Rockwell Collins’ research and development in Europe, described some emerging EGNOS applications by presenting their impact on an imaginary airline flight from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to Madrid. EGNOS could improve efficiencies on the ground and in the air by providing precise location and optimised routing.

“With EGNOS there is no need for RAIM (Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring) as EGNOS tells us the integrity already,” said Bleeker. “EGNOS provides better availability and better position reporting.”

Using EGNOS to guide landing can help airports reduce noise, delayed flights, and timeslots for aircraft arrival could be more accurately predicted compared to the current relative block system.

“However, any participants in such a predictive system must use common clocks that are coherent and closely synchronised,” said Bleeker.

The widespread implementation of EGNOS would mean infrastructure savings for airports. The potential for savings was echoed by Pierre Regis, chief executive officer of Marseille-Provence Airport.

He described the positive effects of noise reduction at airports due to new approach routes that could be enabled by the implementation of augmented satellite navigation systems.

“The various satellite-based augmentations systems  – such as EGNOS – are needed as the current core satellite systems do not meet the strict requirements of aviation,” he said.

Pierluigi Parente, an avionics systems engineer with Augusta Westland, described the special requirements needed for helicopter operations.

“Helicopters require operational flexibility,” he said. “Current air traffic management systems do not differentiate between rotocraft and fixed wing.”

He suggested that SBAS systems like EGNOS could allow specific procedures for helicopter operations that would increase operational efficiency. Such procedures were being tested with a 370 kilometre long low-level helicopter route recently developed between Turin and Venice.

GIANT research

The adoption of EGNOS in the aviation sector has been greatly assisted by projects funded by the European Union through the Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes for Research (FP6 and FP7).

Luis Chocano, head of INECO’s satellite navigation department, presented the GIANT-2 project, which is continuing the work of the GIANT project in the aviation sector. The project’s thirteen partners represent a complete EGNOS value chain, from manufacturers to actual end users.

“The aim is to ensure that systems are usable,” said Chocano. “The project is conducting technical and economic studies focused on user needs.”

These studies demonstrate the multiple benefits of adopting EGNOS in a variety of aviation segments. But there is a need to start EU-wide real-life adoption. “The European Commission, the GSA, Eurocontrol and Member States must facilitate support to airlines and end users, air navigation service providers and airports,” stated Chocano.

Work on helicopter use in the North Sea in the HEDGE (Helicopters deploy GNSS in Europe) project was described by Nick McFarlane, founding director of Helios Technology.

He described new procedures for offshore operations, including approaches to production platforms using Point in Space (PINS) and LPV techniques. “The North Sea is a very dangerous place to operate helicopters -- flying at low-level, over 200 miles offshore, out of radio navigation range and maybe out of radio communication range,” said McFarlane. “Often pilots rely on weather radar to navigate when visibility is low. But there is a great economic imperative and a lot to gain from EGNOS applications.”

It was very early days for the Safe EGNOS-SoL Navigation for UAR-based SAR Operations (CLOSE-SEARCH) project described by Ismael Colomnia, director of the Institute of Geomatics in Barcelona. The project is investigating the use of EGNOS to more accurately guide unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles using heat sensors for search-and-rescue missions in mountains and other difficult terrain.

The service providers

During the session, a roundtable discussion with air navigation service providers was moderated by Paco Salabert of Eurocontrol, with contributions from Benoit Roturier (France), Ken Ashton (UK) and Renato Perago (Italy). They described progress in implementing EGNOS in their countries. The process is being driven by the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s decision to ensure that all instrument runways must have a vertical guidance system in place as a primary or back-up system by 2016.

Salabert saw the benefits of EGNOS as “safety and accessibility as it was applicable and available for airports and aircraft both big and small”.

Success stories

To round out the aviation session, two winning projects of the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) made presentations. First, Doris Kolem of Cenalo described the Quadrocopter, a miniature helicopter that could provide real-time aerial images.

The second ESNC project was a collaborative concept to exchange meteorological information for general aviation and was outlined by Jean-Marc Gaubert, chief executive of Atmosphere. Essential data from aircraft could be used to complement space and ground observations. This could be a valuable service for weather monitoring agencies or for earth observation systems, such as Europe’s GMES, and an efficient way to improve flight safety.


Galileo Application Days

Galileo Application Days, 3-5 March, kicked off this year’s European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC). Live demonstrations of cutting-edge satellite navigation applications using EGNOS and Galileo were held at the event’s ‘Application Village’.

The event was hosted by the European Commission and was organised by the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA) and the Application Centre for Satellite Navigation in Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO), the managing organisation for ESNC (Galileo Masters).

Galileo is scheduled to become operational in 2014. Fully interoperable with the USA’s GPS and Russia's GLONASS systems, it will provide highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning services.
EGNOS is Europe’s ‘pre- Galileo' system. It improves the accuracy of the open public service offered by GPS.

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More information:

Galileo Application Days (slide presentations)
EGNOS Portal: Aviation
European Satellite Navigation Competition 2010
European GNSS Supervisory Authority: Galileo

Updated: Sep 01, 2014