Growing Galileo: the technology is already in place, conference hears
As discussions continue on where to find the EUR 3,4 billion still needed to fill the gap in the budget of Galileo, the EU’s proposed satellite navigation system, stakeholders met in Brussels
on 14 and 15 November in order to demonstrate their ongoing enthusiasm for the project. Conference participants also learnt about the wealth of potential Galileo applications, and heard that
much of the technology is already in place.
Following the collapse of talks between the companies involved in the public-private partnership responsible for the deployment phase of Galileo, the European Commission proposed that funding
should come entirely from the EU budget. This has been backed by the European Parliament, as emphasised by MEP Etelka Barsi-Pataky on 14 November.
The Council is less keen on funding the project from the EU budget. Ms Barsi-Pataky pledged that the two institutions would work together to find a compromise. She also emphasised just how
important MEPs consider Galileo to be for Europe. The hold-ups over the past few months are not due to Galileo itself, but to the institutions finding their way through the establishment of an
entirely new project set-up.
‘European engineers have done a great job […]. The technology is in place. What we need now is to bring this forward,’ said the MEP.
Various sectors of industry are also eagerly awaiting the deployment of Galileo. From transport to agriculture to law enforcement to cultural heritage, industry is clear about the added
benefits that Galileo will bring.
Many services already use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to provide location-based and other services. This has led to huge leaps forward in processes such as tracking freight,
navigating unknown roads and toll collection. But gaps in terms of accuracy, reliability and geographical coverage remain, and these could be filled with the deployment of the Galileo
As Stuart Martin of Logica CMG explained, some current location-based services are affected by indoor positioning. ‘This is when Galileo and EGNOS [the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay
Service] really come into the picture.’ He also emphasised that some market stimulation is still necessary in order to ensure that the market is ready for Galileo.
Sara Gutierrez from technological business group GMV presented the results of the EU-funded GIROADS project, which tested the implications of position integrity for road charging.
The project found that drivers can be charged incorrectly using current GPS systems due to the technology’s inability to pinpoint exactly which road a vehicle is on. The same errors were not
made when EGNOS was used to locate the position of the vehicle in question.
‘Galileo and EGNOS can be key in addressing the negative impact of road transport while offering new services and business opportunities,’ said Ms Gutierrez.
Two participants in the EU-funded HARMLESS project demonstrated how Galileo could improve law enforcement, the delivery of humanitarian aid and emergency management.
One of the project’s results is an osmographer, worn by a search and rescue dog. The device enables those coordinating a search operation to see on a digital map which areas the dog has already
covered, and which areas still need to be searched.
Paul Richardson of the Association of Chief Police Officers in the UK used a video to illustrate what GPS can currently do to help law enforcement officers track suspects. While the information
was fairly accurate, as soon as the suspect disappeared into a warehouse, he was lost. ‘GPS works quite well, but in hard-to-reach locations it does fail us. Combining GPS with Galileo would
help a great deal in hard-to-reach locations,’ said Mr Richardson.
Mr Richardson added a note of caution however: the project did not test how easy it would be to spoof or block the Galileo signal. ‘Every time we get new technologies, we get new forms of
crime,’ he said.
Agriculture is perhaps not the most obvious of Galileo benefactors. But according to Tamme van der Wal of the EU-funded project FIELDFACT, it could save farmers millions of euro by increasing
efficiency. This could be done through hands-free farming or guided steering for farm vehicles. This technology could ensure that fertiliser is spread evenly across all of the farmer’s land.
Galileo could also help to ensure the authentic registration of activities such as animal transport, land use and the location of fishing vessels, and ensure that EU agricultural aid is only
going to those who qualify for it. There are also environmental benefits. Galileo could pinpoint birds’ nests within fields so that farmers can avoid them.
Many more applications are already under development, and with ?40 million available during the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for new research projects, more are likely to follow. The first
Galileo call under FP7 was launched on 15 November.