With European GNSS providing the positioning accuracy that drones need to operate safely, more and more drone-based applications are hitting the market. The GSA highlighted a number of these innovative services during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The integration of EGNOS and Galileo into drone and UAV technology enhances positioning and opens the door to a wide range of new applications and services. In fact, according to the latest edition of the European GNSS Agency’s (GSA) Market Report, by 2025 the installed base of GNSS devices in drones will reach 70 million – more than twice the sum of other professional market segments combined. But with this growing market comes growing concerns about how to ensure the safe operation of drones.
Luckily, European GNSS offers a solution.
To operate safely, today’s drones are increasingly dependent on the precise positioning and navigation information provided by EGNOS and Galileo. As a result, drones and UAVs are used for applications and services spanning from search and rescue to providing photovoltaic maintenance. They also represent a promising growth market for European GNSS. “Highly precise positioning is key for operating drones, and this is where Galileo and EGNOS can really make a difference - on one hand enhancing the precision in manoeuvring the drone and on the other making flying operations safer,” GSA Market Development Officer Carmen Aguilera said.
This growing role of drones was on full display during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, where the GSA highlighted a number of Horizon 2020-funded drone and UAV applications that utilise EGNOS and Galileo:
Researchers with the REAL project are developing EGNOS-based navigation and surveillance sensors for two Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), one for urgent medical transport and the other for providing linear powerline inspections. “REAL integrates EGNOS positioning in support of aviation and surveillance functions for UAVs,” explains project researcher Santiago Soley. “The idea is to exploit EGNOS’ positioning and, more importantly, the integrity that it provides.”
The EASY-PV project has developed a time-efficient and cost-effective maintenance solution for photovoltaic plants. Using a drone equipped with a European GNSS high-accuracy receiver, the system flies over a photovoltaic field and collects such relevant data as visible and thermal images. “This data is then automatically geo-referenced and processed, producing a detailed report on which modules need to be replaced,” explains project coordinator Marco Nisi.
To better regulate drone traffic in Europe, the EU has launched a UAV Traffic Management initiative. “GAUSS integrates EGNOS and Galileo’s navigation and location services into this initiative to provide the level of accuracy needed to safely position drones in the sky,” says project coordinator Jiménez González.
To increase emergency response times, GEO-VISION captures images and video streaming from the UAV, which are then sent to the pilot and routed in real-time to a control room. “In emergency search and rescue situations, everything is about time – the quicker you know what is happening, the faster you can respond to it,” says project coordinator Harald Skinnemoen. “GEOVISION results is an increased efficiency in emergency response, leading to more lives being saved.”
This mapping-based project integrates drones with terrestrial mobile mapping systems to provide surveyors and mappers with an end-to- end solution for 3D high-resolution corridor mapping. “For drone applications such as MAPKITE, EGNOS is the standard for accuracy,” explains project coordinator Pere Molina. “Galileo plays an important role too, adding more satellites in view and by offering some resilience against hacking.”
ARGONAUT combines an advanced, multi-constellation GNSS receiver and a powerful navigation data processing cloud service for more accurate and affordable geolocation. “For us, the use of Galileo basically translates into being able to provide a better service,” says project coordinator Xavier Banqué-Casanovas. “Because ARGONAUT is a multi-constellation solution, we can offer drone users a more robust solution for overcoming such adverse scenarios as obstructions.”
Want to learn more about the role of European GNSS in drone applications and services? Stay tuned as our EGNOS, Galileo and Drones series takes a behind-the-scenes look at each of these projects in the coming weeks.
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