Satellites lead the way to a future with autonomous infrastructure

The European satellite navigation system “Galileo” is paving the way for a future with autonomous ships, drones, driverless cars and predictive maintenance.

In a not too far future autonomous ships, drones, driverless cars and predictive maintenance for roads, bridges, and railways can be a natural part of our daily life. An important precondition for building and testing such an autonomous infrastructure is high-precision satellite navigation and here Europe is in a leading position

For most people, the American “Global Positioning System” (GPS) is synonymous with satellite navigation, but a number of global systems are in use or under development, including the European system “Galileo”. While GPS and equivalent Russian and Chinese systems are managed by these countries’ military, Galileo is a project under the EU Commission and as such a system under civilian control.

The Galileo system is well on its way to become fully operational in 2020 where it will offer global positioning accuracy of at least 20 cm. For autonomous systems and predictive maintenance this might not be sufficient, but better accuracy can be obtained using a so-called “Real Time Kinematic” (RTK) network that continuously sends out corrections to the satellite signals.

To investigate the performance and possibilities for RTK networks in the Galileo era, the Danish Agency for Data Supply and Efficiency in collaboration with DTU Space and the Municipality of Aarhus is currently establishing an RTK network in Aarhus called “Testbed in Aarhus for Precision positioning and Autonomous Systems” (TAPAS). The unique feature of TAPAS is that the network will deliver corrections in real time which is a crucial precondition for the safe navigation of autonomous systems operating at high speeds in a complex environment.

When the TAPAS network becomes operational at the end of this year, it will be open for everyone to conduct research and testing of autonomous systems as well as systems for predictive maintenance in a realistic environment rather than a controlled laboratory. Potential users of TAPAS are invited to participate in a user-workshop held in Aarhus on the 23rd of October.

TAPAS is a good example of how Danish research institutions, authorities and industry can be visionary in paving the way for our future society where high-precision positioning, autonomy and predictive maintenance will become essential, but also natural parts of our lives.

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