If it’s March, it must be Munich

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20 March 2017
The GSA’s Executive Director Carlo des Dorides speaking during the plenary debate.

The Munich Satellite Navigation Summit is established as one of the most important dates in the global GNSS community’s calendar. This year the Summit’s 14th edition took place from 14-16 March with the theme ‘GNSS – is it time for backup?’ The opening session examined a range of topics around GNSS in today’s changing political and technical environment.

The Munich Summit’s opening event is always a grand affair that takes place in the impressive Allerheiligen-Hofkirche (Court Church of All Saints) within the Residenz München – the majestic palace of the Bavarian princes.

Following a welcome from the Summit’s hosts, the Bavarian government and the Universität der Bundeswehr München, the plenary brought together prominent speakers from the global GNSS community to give their views on the events of the past year and look to the future.

Big year for Galileo

Clearly the highlight of 2016 from a European perspective was the successful launch of six Galileo satellites and the declaration of Initial Services on 15 December 2016.

Pierre Delsaux from the European Commission said that with the launch of Initial Services “for the first time users can now navigate using Galileo signals.” With Galileo now operational, it was important to reinforce Europe’s presence on the international scene with such initiatives as the recent cooperation agreement with Japan, he said.

Johann-Dietrich Woerner, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), also highlighted the achievement of 18 Galileo satellites in orbit. “Today people say that Galileo is the ‘European GPS’, but in the future we should aim for GPS being the ‘American Galileo’,” he said. Galileo had showed its capability, including its robustness, in a challenging environment. But there was also a need to prepare for the future: initial work on the next generation of Galileo has been supported by ESA member states.

Agreeing, Hansjoerg Dittus for the German Aerospace Centre, DLR, highlighted the need to develop the next generation of EU GNSS by reinforcing research and development competence during the build-up for full Galileo operational capability in 2020, and to develop technology for future systems.

For the French government, David Comby emphasised the need for an operational view on the Galileo programme and the GSA’s key role in maximising the benefits of the systems for the EU and its citizens.

Galileo is a reality

“Market adoption of Galileo is a reality,” declared Carlo des Dorides, Executive Director of the GSA. “In 2017, 17 GNSS receiver chipset manufacturers representing 95 % of global supply are already Galileo-enabled.”

“The dual frequency capability provided by Galileo promises to improve horizontal accuracy by a factor of four – and this is confirmed by the manufacturers,” he continued. “Today Galileo is deploying in orbit more dual frequency satellites than GPS. This will pave the way forward for new applications such as autonomous driving.”

He also noted that three Galileo-enabled smartphones (from BQ, Sony and Huawei) were already on the market.

Outside Europe, Harold Martin of the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing in Washington DC gave the US perspective reiterating that “GPS customers are important to us, no matter where they are.” He also reflected on the theme of the Summit saying that if “something is precious to you, you need backup too” and added that the USA is looking at developing technology-neutral options for GNSS backup systems.

From China, Dr Xiaochun Lu said that the Beidou programme would continue to work to integrate and promote interoperability between GNSS constellations emphasising that Beidou was “developed by China but open to the world”.

Changing environment, bright future

Next, a wide-ranging discussion covered many of the issues facing GNSS. The European speakers looked to focus on the bright future for Galileo, emphasising that its performance was exceeding expectations even in this initial stage.

Carlo des Dorides described the opportunities for the Galileo Commercial Service, “This service will deliver both high precision and authentication,” he said. “Market surveys show a clear need in a range of businesses, from high-precision agriculture through authentication of logistics to timing services.” He added that the number of customers is estimated at around 1 million users by 2027.

Giving an overview of Galileo services in terms of future markets and emerging applications, des Dorides noted the results from the GSA’s GNSS Market Survey Report, the latest version of which will be published soon, and highlighted major interest in two segments: location-based services and road. “These make up around 90 % of the market,” he said.

Other important segments include civil aviation where aircraft is being with equipped with SBAS-compatible receivers and the promise of the rail sector was underlined. “GNSS will be a game changer in rail,” he said. “GNSS demonstrates a clearly improved safety case, especially on rural lines, of which there are some 60 000 kilometres in Europe.” He expected to see operational solutions by 2020 in this sector.

Concluding the discussion, des Dorides looked forward to new innovative uses of location information. “We need to look at technology trends,” he said. “The Internet of Things (IoT) and big data all require input from GNSS. For example, IoT objects need to communicate between themselves and highly precise and available location information is key to achieving this.”

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Updated: Dec 08, 2022