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image European Research News Centre > Transport > Feature: Space: Galileo, the guardian angel of mobility
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image image image Date published: 11/07/2001
  image Galileo,
the guardian angel of mobility
RTD info 30
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  Just like mobile telephony, Europe's Galileo satellite navigation programme will revolutionise many sectors of the economy - starting with transport. Initiated by the Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA), by 2008 this project is set to be the industrial and technological flagship of the joint space strategy.
   
     
   

Satellite navigation allows the owner of a transmitter/receiver to determine and communicate their position in longitude, latitude and altitude very precisely, at any moment, by picking up signals from a number of satellites. This continuously available 'guardian angel' from space is revolutionising air traffic control, the management of ship and lorry fleets, road and rail traffic monitoring, the mobilisation of emergency services, and the tracking of goods carried by multimodal transport.

Multiple applications of a vital tool

It is not just in transport where satellite navigation techniques are opening up new applications. Tracking dangerous materials, locating oil and gas deposits, identifying fishing areas, locating the site of wrecks, guiding the visually impaired, and facilitating the work of emergency aid teams and humanitarian operations are just some examples. Specific uses could also develop in the medical sector for the remote treatment of patients, in law enforcement for tracking prisoners on parole, and in customs for investigations in the field.

Today's two principal satellite radionavigation systems, GPS and Glonass, are both under military control, the former US and the latter Russian. Both are also open to civil applications, in Europe and elsewhere. They already enable tracking on the road, at sea, in the mountains and in the desert - but with no guarantee of precision or continuous service. The military authorities in the two countries can decide to stop or downgrade the signal at any time for reasons of national security.

For a Europe in the process of developing an integrated transport system it is therefore vital to develop independent positioning and navigational systems which are precise and reliable. The Union simply cannot afford to be absent or dependent on others when dealing with a technology whose potential market is estimated at 9 billion euros a year and which is likely to generate 140 000 jobs.

That is the raison d'être for the Galileo programme. Managed and controlled by civil players, Europe's future satellite navigation system is set to be open, global (1) and fully compatible with GPS, while offering its users accuracy in the region of 5-10 metres compared to 70 metres for GPS. It will be dependent on a constellation of 30 satellites in medium orbit at 23 000 km linked to a network of terrestrial command stations and centres required for the provision of services.

Public-private partnership

The start-up costs for this system are estimated at 3.25 billion euros through to 2008. Much of the financing will be raised through an open public-private partnership scheme. Almost 80 million euros have already been allocated from European funds for the study phase, now nearing completion. The development phase will continue until 2006 with joint EU/ESA public funding of 1.1 billion euros. Last March a group of industrialists, including service providers, operators, and space system and parts manufacturers, expressed a desire to be closely involved in the project - in particular in terms of defining the services offered by Galileo - by setting up a joint company and making an investment in the region of 200 million euros. The satellite deployment phase will follow in 2006-2007, with financing of 2.1 billion euros, largely raised by the private sector. The system will become operational in 2008, with maintenance costs estimated at 220 million euros a year.

In the meantime, Europe's Egnos initiative, launched by ESA, should make it possible to improve the performance of GPS satellites by 2003. The job of this transitional system, whose infrastructure will later be integrated into Galileo, is to inform the user within a very short time of any malfunction likely to affect the quality of the signal transmitted by geostationary satellites. This quality control by Egnos is essential for applications in the transport sector, and by becoming rapidly commercially available it will serve to open up the market and interest future private partners in Galileo.

(1) This is the European contribution to the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) for which negotiations are under way with the United States, Russia, Canada, Brazil and Asian and African countries.
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Contact

Paul Flament
Transport DG
paul.flament@ec.europa.eu
www.galileo-pgm.org/indexcf.htm


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In concrete terms…

Once operational, Galileo will have the potential to generate revenue from a variety of uses. A wide range of Galileo receivers will offer the different kinds of satellite navigation services available, possibly combined with other functions. A basic service, free for certain applications, could be made available to the general public. Mini-terminals in motor vehicles could provide drivers with an integrated navigational platform combining positioning and the monitoring of traffic information or services specifically dedicated to certain leisure activities (mountain climbing, sailing, etc.). More simply, a positioning function could be integrated into mobile telephones using the UMTS standard, permitting, for example, the supply of certain added-value services or precise locating in the case of an emergency call using the EU-wide 112 number.

More sophisticated services will be proposed for commercial and professional applications requiring a high level of performance and for which the user will have to pay. Finally, there will be restricted access to public interest applications requiring maximum dependability such as air and sea navigation, emergency services, etc.

 
     
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First funding

On 5 April this year, transport ministers gave the go-ahead for the use of an initial community allocation for the development phase which will run through to 2006. A first call for tenders will be very quickly launched to carry out studies on the various kinds of services which will be made available by the system and the revenue they are likely to generate. At its December meeting, the Council of Ministers will decide on the maximum amount of EU funds to finance the operational and deployment phases.

 
     
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In concrete terms…

First funding


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