Positive messages from this year's Conference on European Space Policy


At the 9th Annual Conference on European Space Policy in Brussels, top officials discussed using Galileo, Europe's Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), now delivering initial services, for the betterment of society and the economy.

The new Space Strategy for Europe, unveiled by the European Commission"We must encourage development of downstream markets for space services." last year, includes a range of actions enabling Europe to respond to growing global competition. One of the Strategy's stated goals is to promote the use of Galileo in mobile devices and critical infrastructures.

Speaking in Brussels at the Conference on European Space Policy, Executive Director of the European GNSS Agency (GSA) Carlo des Dorides said Galileo will be one very important element in a multi-system, multi-technology navigation solution that will also include GNSS augmentation and other systems.

"This is not going to be a GNSS-only solution," des Dorides said. "In the transport sector, for example, we look at autonomous driving applications, and this is now a very popular topic, and it is clear that we will have a combination of solutions."

The emerging paradigm, he said, has a number ofelements: "First is ubiquity, meaning there must be a navigation solution everywhere, wherever you are, from the mountains, in rural areas, to the cities, and inside the car parks. Everywhere you go, everywhere you will be, there must be a way to navigate. GNSS will be a part of this. Then we will have very soon ambient intelligence including user-to-user connectivity, and we will also have a strong focus on robustness and secure positioning data."

For the European GNSS community, des Dorides said, further developments have to push towards a multi-GNSS system, multi-frequency GNSS for accuracy and robustness, and full exploitation of the kind of authentication features that are exclusive to Galileo services.

The 'Internet of things', he said, will also play an important role in future positioning and navigation solutions. "Today there are more connected things than humans," des Dorides said, "and we expect that to double in the next several years."

He also referenced the new frontier represented by 'smart dust', a concept that emerged in the 1990s and is now increasingly being discussed in the context of positioning. "This is essentially where you have a very high number of very small elements for positioning and navigation, and they can be distributed and interconnected. And it is a really exciting concept that could change many things and lead to some very interesting applications."

In response to questions from conference participants, des Dorides cited some of Galileo's key aspects: "Galileo is hosting a search and rescue payload, with which we participate in the international Cospas-Sarsat programme. This allows for a distress signal to be sent, but there is also a unique 'back channel' with Galileo, which means itwill providean acknowledgement to the person in distress, to tell them that their call has been received and rescue serves are alerted to the situation."

On a similar subject, des Dorides reminded participants that GNSS and Galileo will play a fundamental role in the new European eCall system, by which emergency serviceswill be alerted automatically in the event of an automobile accident, including precise localisation of the incident. "The eCall regulation is in place," he said, "and so by 2018 all new model of cars to be sold in Europe must beequipped with this system, so this is another example of how we are working to bring this space-based technology to a real application for citizens on the ground."

Services and products

Joining des Dorides in a discussion on the topic of space services for society and the economy, Lowri Evans, Director-General of the European Commission's DG GROW, commented on the importance of a qualified workforce, suggesting there is still more work to be done in Europe. "We are not necessarily producing the right people to fill the positions where there are needs," she said, "and this at the same time when there is huge unemployment in the EU."

On the minds of both speakers and participants was the question of turning space services into money-making concerns for the European economy. For the GSA and the European Commission, said des Dorides, this continues to be a top priority. "With the Horizon 2020 funding programme, we were the first to introduce a specific requirement for a business plan. So that means when you respond to a call for proposals, you must demonstrate a concrete capacity to build something that can become a product."

Steady progress

In her opening comments to the conference, ElżbietaBieńkowska, European Commissioner for Single Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, expressed confidence in the progress being made on the Galileo system. This came in the wake of the recent setback announced by ESA concerning failed clocks on-board some of the Galileo satellites.

"There are always risks with such a large scale project and Galileo is no exception," Bieńkowska said. However, she added, the inbuilt redundancy of the system, with four clocks on each satellite where only one is needed, meant that all satellites are currently functioning and there are no negative effects on the full constellation or services.

Overall, the 9th Annual Conference on European Space Policy put forward dynamic and positive discussions with major players from the European institutions as well as industry expressing interest and optimism about the future of European GNSS.

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