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Synergies between GNSS and Earth Observation


At the European GNSS Agency (GSA), we ensure the delivery of European safe and secure positioning satellite-based services. We are responsible for the state-of-the-art safe and secure provision of navigation and timing services, market development and user uptake, and development of innovative applications for the European Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) — Galileo and EGNOS. The setting up of the European Union Space Programme Agency (EUSPA) under the upcoming new EU Space Regulation, will allow us to broaden our scope and promote the use of Copernicus, the EU’s Earth Observation (EO) program, with business and commercial users and activities related to GOVSATCOM, Europe’s secure satellite communication capability.

We foresee great synergies between GNSS and EO, especially in agriculture, maritime, energy, environment management, sustainable mobility and smart cities, among others. Creating integrated applications that combine data from EO and GNSS will lead to democratization of data and generate service access to the wider public. With its new responsibilities, the EUSPA will also provide more opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop their activities based on these synergies.

Innovative applications

At the GSA, we have been exploring new application ideas for Galileo and EGNOS across numerous market segments. Over the past years, we not only funded more than 70 different projects through Horizon 2020, but also coached them to improve their business model and to bring their products to the market. In the last two years, we also started specific activities targeting start-ups and SMEs, such as the MyGalileo series competition plus business acceleration. This has led to the creation of an ecosystem of more than 600 startups, all involved in the development of EGNSS-based solutions.

In addition, we are also fostering the use of European GNSS in policies, by developing targeted applications. For example, in March last year, we supported the development of Galileo Green Lane, a map-based application to monitor border traffic. The tool helped national authorities and truck drivers to mitigate the effect of border restrictions across the EU and to ensure the smooth distribution of freight, including critical goods.

To ease the integration of GNSS connectivity from outdoor to indoor environments, we recently conducted a pilot project in Prague to install Galileo’s GNSS repeaters in a complex tunnel system in the city. The repeaters ensure drivers continue receiving signals when they are driving through the tunnel.

Also linked to transport, we are running another project to develop a precise positioning system for autonomous vehicles; in this project signals from Galileo are combined with other positioning and sensor technologies in a sensor fusion approach, to ensure the enhanced accuracy and reliability required by the highest levels of automation.

Search and rescue have always been a focus for Galileo. Galileo’s Search and Rescue service is operational since 2016 and has a unique capability worldwide — the Galileo Return Link Service that started in January 2020. It allows people in distress to receive an acknowledgement that their signal has been received and their location is known.

We are also active in shaping a special authentication feature on Galileo that can help the users understand if the signal is really coming from the satellites and is not manipulated. This is in addition to a new Galileo High Accuracy service which will benefit users across the world with an improved accuracy at decimeter level.

These are just a few examples of our projects portfolio. Overall, it is great that private enterprises have picked up all the innovative features of EGNOS and Galileo and combined them with additional technological solutions to create value-adding services. This is making the GNSS market much more dynamic.

Security of Space infrastructure

Security is an essential element of Galileo. The GSA is in-charge of the security of Galileo and EGNOS, the operations of the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre operating 24/7, and through the Security Accreditation Board, of the security accreditation of European GNSS. Our staff has concrete knowledge of security engineering and expertise in security accreditation. EUSPA will only capitalize on GSA’s legacy.

The future of EU Space is bright and holds many opportunities. On November 18, 2020, Galileo started testing Open Service Navigation Message Authentication (OSNMA) The Galileo OSNMA is an authentication mechanism that allows GNSS receivers to verify the authenticity of GNSS information, making sure that the data they receive are indeed from Galileo and have not been modified in any way.

Growing Space ambition

The EU investment in Space is growing, and I believe this reflects the European Union’s ambition. More than two billion devices are already using Galileo. EGNOS is used in most of the new tractors in Europe using GNSS. Around 80% of mapping and Geomatics receivers are EGNOS compatible. And our goal with EUSPA will be to create the user-oriented operational agency of the EU Space program, contributing to sustainable growth, security and safety of the European Union. So, we are looking forward to taking on the new responsibilities and challenges on board.

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