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One of the main purposes of the Galileo infrastructure is to increase safety in many areas such as transportation, emergency operations and various professional activities. Complementing and reinforcing current systems, Galileo will greatly contribute to diminishing risks for travellers and working crews and will contribute to the saving of many lives.

Some examples of practical uses of GALILEO:

Road Safety

Road accident ©European Commission's Audiovisual LibraryThe number of road accident victims is spectacularly high in the European Union, with around 40,000 fatalities and 1.3 million injuries being recorded each year. Young people aged 15 to 24 are the most at risk, with a fatality rate 50 to 90% higher than that of the population as a whole. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are not immune either; accounting for 40% of all road deaths in the Member States in 1994. Faced with this dreadful situation, the European Commissionís Road Safety Action Plan is aimed at improving road safety within the Union.

GALILEO will provide new possibilities to motorists and public authorities in the following fields:

  • navigation and of guidance systems, based on digital maps, enriched by safety information transmitted to the drivers on the static dangers that he will encounter (dangerous curves etc.) and the dynamic dangers (icy roads, traffic jams or accidents that only just occurred);

  • traffic information which could be filtered in order to meet strictly the needs and the situation of the driver;

  • in case of accidents, automatic transmission of essential information to the nearest rescue station;

  • fleet management based on GALILEO will increase significantly the efficiency of rescue operations;

  • speed limit enforcement, either on a voluntary basis in the frame of insurance plans, or by generalised monitoring;

  • improvement of accident statistics and the possibility of understanding the cause of accidents for better future prevention.

It should be noted that in this context, GALILEO will have two advantages important in relation to current satellite navigation systems:

  • a guarantee of service continuity;

  • significantly increased availability in urban areas.

Emergency and incident handling

Rapid response to emergencies is a critical requirement, on the one hand for saving lives and aiding the injured but also for the removal of obstructions and the maintenance of efficient traffic flow. Some domestic vehicles are now being equipped with automatic crash sensors and positioning systems that can communicate directly with emergency dispatch centres. Such systems require no action on the part of the driver, communicating a vehicle's exact location even if he or she is incapacitated. In the absence of a central control station, emergency vehicles can be equipped with independent tracking systems enabling precision resource deployment. GALILEO will enhance the capabilities of such systems significantly, even allowing the specification of which lane an incident has occurred in.

The response time for emergency services to reach the scene of an accident varies greatly. Currently the response depends on user contact by telephone or on infrastructure-based sensing equipment. In the case of mobile calls, the location of the accident or incident cannot be accurately determined in 40% of the cases. The Commission has acted to improve this poor situation through an initiative that enhances the 112 Emergency Call Number service by making the transfer of location data to the Emergency Services a mandatory action for mobile phone operators who will have to provide the best possible caller location information that will reduce response time, reduce trauma in victims, increase survivability and provide the opportunity for enhancing the complete incident and road emergency management chain. Over time the best possible caller location will progressively be provided by satellite location and positioning available from GALILEO.

In the future, such systems are expected to be of help in the management of dangerous materials transport. In the event an accident, an on-board terminal will transmit not only the accurate location of the vehicle, but also specific information on vehicle contents, including the amount and kind of material being carried.

By using GALILEO receivers for their units, emergency services can effectively monitor the position of deployed resources and co-ordinate rescue efforts in an efficient manner. Intervention time can be reduced and additional lives will be saved. Route guidance systems can further facilitate the mission of emergency units by using external traffic data to calculate an optimum itinerary.

The safety of life service of GALILEO and the EGNOS signal can be used to guide and safely land Search and Rescue helicopters in bad weather conditions such as low visibility and fog, where previously helicopter operations had not been possible. This will significantly improve the availability of medical helicopter services for severe road accidents, which often occur in bad weather conditions. GALILEO and EGNOS technology will also lead to a more reliable use of helicopters for urgent hospitalizations in general.

Train Safety 

Railway accidents often involve hundreds of victims. Ensuring high-level safety for the railway network is a priority.

In line with the new European Rail Transport Management System / European Train Control System (ERTMS/ETCS) standards for high-speed trains, GALILEO could constitute a complementary source of positioning information. Regional secondary lines with low traffic will benefit from the integrity information provided by GALILEO  as well as its accuracy and availability.

Air traffic safety

Landing aircraft ©European Commission's Audiovisual LibrarySafety is one of the driving factors for many innovations in aviation. GALILEO it will allow to use satellite navigation for high precise four dimensional (three dimensional position and time) navigation from gate to gate in all phases of flight, without switching from one navigation system to another with different characteristics as it is the case today. GALILEO will allow for approach procedures with vertical guidance worldwide without any additional augmentation system on ground (especially important for regions without well-developped ground-based navigation infrastructure). This will, combined with digital three-dimensional maps, reduce the risk for a controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) dramatically. The high accuracy and integrity provided by GALILEO will allow aviation to relay on GALILEO signals for high critical applications like collision avoidance systems or position reporting for air traffic control in areas not covered by radar. GALILEO can also greatly improve the monitoring and guidance of aircrafts on airports.

The high accuracy and integrity of GALILEO signals can be used equally by general aviation and air transport users. Safety in aviation will increase with GALILEO providing reliable, integer, robust, seamless and certified services to aviation worldwide.

Maritime Safety

Already today, satellite navigation is an essential part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). GALILEO will further improve the position accuracy and hence improve the search and rescue capabilities. Additionally, GALILEO's SAR service forsees a feedback channel to inform people in distress about the reception of the call and to transmit additional information.

The GALILEO signal including integrity data can be used as a position sensor in the Automatic Identification System (AIS). AIS in combination with an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) will increase safety by improving the situation awareness of all ships in the area. These functions are not only important for the open see or costal waters but also for inland waterways as radars can not look around river bends. The combination of ECDIS and GALILEO will allow for precise and reliable navigation in e.g. harbour entrances to avoid running aground.

Traffic flow can be optimised and the safety for all ships can  be improved by using the very accurate positioning provided by GALILEO, integrity-checked and transmitted to a Vessel Traffic Service System. This is especially important on the new highways of the see where new high speed ferries operate at a much higher speed than conventional ships.

Manoeuvres of large vessels in harbours have to be carried out with highest precision to avoid damage to the ship and the harbour facilities. GALILEO with its high precise and robust signals on several frequencies is predestined for the use in such environment.

Dangerous or Valuable Goods Transportation

Every day, thousands of transports of hazardous materials such as chemicals and fuels are taking place, often in densely populated areas. Continuous tracking of these transports will facilitate emergency responses in case of accidents or leakage. A monitoring centre can communicate rapidly with police and fire authorities, providing precise information on the nature of the hazard and the exact location of an incident.

With the advent of GALILEO, there will be increased positioning capability due to the increased number of satellites. To assure continuity of localisation in covered or dense urban environments, currently additional techniques such as odometers, or gyroscopes need to be used. Communication can be continuous or interrupted. GALILEO will emit a signal with increased power, which will allow for better penetration of the signal inside the vehicle. The shipment can then be tracked directly by a monitoring centre.

These techniques will also play en ever increasing role in monitoring transports of valuable goods such as banknotes.

Infrastructure Monitoring

Forth Road Bridge, Edimbourg ©European Commission's Audiovisual LibraryGALILEO receivers on and around bridges, barrages, dams, skyscrapers and historical monuments, for example, can provide a significant means for structural monitoring. Satellite techniques can also be used in predicting natural events such as landslips, land settling/rising and rock-falls, and measuring the levels of rivers and lakes. A transmission link ensures the data reach a processing and monitoring centre for real-time detection of any movements.

Energy providers can use electronic mapping systems to reduce power outage times by about 20% and more efficiently operate electrical facilities. The precise locations of utility poles, transformers and even customers can be mapped using GALILEO receivers. During power outage or other failures, the critical infrastructure can be identified immediately. With larger outages, maintenance crews can be dispatched to locations that will help the most customers. This kind of system can also be used by water, wastewater and gas facilities.

GALILEO Benefits

By means of integrating Galileo with other technologies, safety can be enhanced through:
- increased route guidance capabilities and
advanced driver assistance systems;

- better air traffic management;
more reliable positioning information for the rail and maritime community;
better fleet management and en-route guidance of emergency services;
effective tracking of dangerous or valuable goods during their transportation;
more effective monitoring of infrastructures.

see also: Pilot project INSTANT

last update: 10-02-2009