EGNOS increases airport safety, Casablanca event demonstrates

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09 February 2010

A live demonstration at Casablanca’s Mohammed V airport of tracking a service vehicle using the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) showed how better location precision could be used to improve safety in the civil aviation sector.

Improving the precision of tracking ground traffic with EGNOS, a satellite-based augmentation system, can help reduce the risk of accidents due to human error and increase efficiency.

A “Follow Me” vehicle is tracked using EGNOS during a demonstration at Casablanca’s airport.A “Follow Me” vehicle is tracked using EGNOS during a demonstration at Casablanca’s airport. © Ahmed ElAmin

The demonstration by the METIS project on 22 October 2009 in Morocco used a test section of the airport’s apron area near Terminal 1. Funded by EuropeAid, a directorate-general of the European Commission, the project is managed in the context of the European EGNOS programme.

A service van known as a “Follow Me” vehicle was outfitted with an EGNOS-enabled GPS navigator and sent its position via a wireless network to a ground supervision station in the control tower. As the van travelled along the test area, its route was tracked in real-time on a digital map of the airport displayed on the station’s screen using specially adapted software. The driver could also see his position on the GPS device.

When the van travelled into a designated restricted zone in the test area an alarm sounded alerting both the driver and the control tower operator of the intrusion. The operator then ordered the driver by radio to exit the restricted area. When the van left the area, the alarm stopped sounding.

The demonstration showed how EGNOS could play a part in the guidance and control of ground traffic at airports, said Antonella Di Fazio, the project coordinator for METIS and part of Italy-based Telespazio’s research and development unit.

While other tracking technologies use GPS, the added value of EGNOS derives from its suitability for applications requiring an accurate and guaranteed position, such as the monitoring of vehicles in airport areas. Vehicle drivers in the airside operational areas of an airport account for up to 30% of reported runway incursions according to recent surveys.

Accuracy and integrity

EGNOS augments GPS by improving location accuracy to within two metres. Further precision will be achieved when the EU officially launches Galileo, a global navigation satellite system (GNSS).

In addition to increasing navigation accuracy, EGNOS also provides integrity information, telling the driver and the control tower operator the degree of trust they can place in the location signal. It includes the ability of the system to warn the user when the signal should not be used for navigation.

The demonstrations are part of a series held by METIS to prepare the 10 members of the EU’s Mediterranean Economic Development Area (MEDA) programme for the introduction of EGNOS and Galileo services, particularly in the aviation, road, maritime, freight and rail transport sectors.

“We have identified the transport sector as the most promising in the Mediterranean area for the use of EGNOS today, to prepare the market for Galileo in the future,” Di Fazio said in her presentation of the test to government and aviation representatives from the MEDA region.

Since the launch of METIS in July 2006, the project’s partners have also held meetings, training workshops, promotional events and live demonstrations for other transport segments in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

EGNOS for airport approaches

The event at Casablanca’s airport marks the first time the project has held a demonstration in the aviation sector. Two more demonstrations in the aviation sector are scheduled in November at airports at Perugia, Italy, and Çanakkale, Turkey.

Those demonstrations, on the first half of November, will show the use of EGNOS for landing airplanes using vertical guidance approaches. EGNOS can reduce the risk of costly delays, diversions, and accidents by making landing approaches more efficient.

A key activity of the project was the development of a GNSS regional plan plus 10 national plans for the application of satellite navigation services in the MEDA area over the next 5-10 years along with a cost-benefit analysis of the benefits of EGNOS and Galileo for each sector in each country.

Studies by METIS estimate that €200 million in benefits will accrue to MEDA’s members over the next 10 years from the use of EGNOS applications in the transport sector. For example, in the civil aviation sector, Morocco is expected to gain €9.8 million in benefits over the next 10 years according to a METIS cost benefit analysis, Di Fazio said.

Another speaker at the event, Michel Bosco, representing the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport, said demonstrations, such as the one in Casablanca, indicated the EU’s commitment to EGNOS and Galileo.

“Aviation is central to the raison d'être for EGNOS,” he said, noting that the system’s Open Service was officially launched on 1 October this year. The Safety-of-Life Service, intended for safety-critical applications such as in the aviation sector, is expected to receive certification in 2010. The Commercial Service, the EGNOS Data Access System (EDAS), currently is being tested by a number of industry players.

“EGNOS has become reality and covers most of Europe,” Bosco said. “The desire is for a system that covers all the Mediterranean countries.”

Extending coverage

Currently, the edge of the range of the augmentation information provided by EGNOS’ three geo-stationary satellites extends into parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Additional EGNOS ranging and integrity monitoring stations (RIMS) are being built in the region to extend coverage further.


Three more RIMS are scheduled to be deployed in Morocco at Agadir, in Egypt at Alexandria and in Greece at Athens. The deployments are designed to extend EGNOS signal coverage to other parts of northern Africa.

The RIMS measure the positions of each EGNOS satellite and compare accurate measurements of the positions of each GPS satellite with measurements obtained from the satellites’ signals. The RIMS then send this data to the master control centres, via a purpose built communications network.

The master control centres determine the accuracy of the signals received at each station and determine position inaccuracies due to disturbances in the ionosphere. All the deviation data is then incorporated into a signal and sent through up-link stations to the three EGNOS satellites, which then transmit it for reception by an EGNOS-enabled receiver.

Hans de With, an aviation market development officer with the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA), said a survey has indicated that receiver manufacturers are very interested in selling EGNOS-enabled receivers to the region.

Other projects testing EGNOS for use with airplanes and helicopters have demonstrated the benefits for the aviation sector. The MEDA countries will also reap benefits with the addition of the new RIMS ground stations, he said.

“EGNOS means high precision for a low investment in the aviation sector,” he said at the Casablanca event.

The METIS project, which ends in December 2009, operates through a consortium of private and public organisations from European and Mediterranean countries. The core team includes Telespazio, the Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, the European Satellite Service Provider (ESSP), France Développement Conseil (FDC), and Thales Alenia Space.

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More information:

METIS (Mediterranean Introduction of GNSS Services) Project

Updated: Sep 01, 2014