Galileo and Copernicus combine forces at InterGEO 2017

Published: 
20 October 2017
Joint use of E-GNSS and Earth observation data enables many applications of interest to the mapping and surveying communities.

Europe's flagship space programmes, Galileo and Copernicus, shared a stand and a stage at this year's InterGEO event in Berlin.

For the European GNSS Agency (GSA) and the European Commission, the aim of this year's joint appearance by Galileo and Copernicus at InterGEO 2017 was to highlight the powerful synergies that exist between the two services.

"This is the first time we have shared a common stand at an event of this type," said GSA Market Development Officer Reinhard Blasi. "We in the GNSS community know a lot about Galileo already, but we may not know so much about Copernicus. This is Europe's earth observation and monitoring programme, which, like Galileo, delivers openly and freely in a wide range of application areas, with both operational data and information services."

Blasi was speaking at the world's premier event for the geospatial industry, and the joint use of E-GNSS and Earth observation data certainly enables a number of applications of great interest to the mapping and surveying communities that gather at InterGEO. But there are also large numbers of potential value-added applications for the agriculture sector, for smart cities, road transport, maritime navigation, emergency/crisis management, utilities and many others.

"These synergies exist in many market segments," Blasi said, "for example in biomass monitoring, hydrographical offshore surveying or border surveillance." He cited a specific example in the area of precision agriculture, where Copernicus can deliver very detailed information about soil humidity and composition, which can then be used to generate metre- and centimetre-level maps of soil parameters. Farmers can then overlay Galileo- and EGNOS-generated location maps to guide targeted irrigation and other operations in their fields.

In the area of environmental management, Copernicus delivers key information on the state of forests, water quality and snow cover, while again Galileo and EGNOS provide precise guidance to specific areas of interest.

Many applications

The European Union is supporting a major initiative in the area of Smart Cities. Here, Copernicus can be of great use in the monitoring of urban growth, green areas, and land use, both legal and illegal, while European GNSS can be combined with this kind of information to help better understand the mobility habits of urban citizens.

"For public authorities, combined Earth observation and GNSS information is really very valuable," said Blasi, "for urban planning, defining new urban corridors and infrastructure projects and supporting law enforcement. And all of these are just a few of the areas where Galileo and Copernicus can work together to provide something that is more powerful than either one by itself."

At the joint Galileo/Copernicus stand in the InterGEo exhibition area, representatives from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), including Alexandra Förster and Lena Schultz-Lieckfeld, as well as the GSA's Blasi, and Julia Ioannou of the Copernicus Support Office, provided more insights into what can be accomplished by combining Copernicus and Galileo data.

There was also an array of representatives on hand from small and medium-sized companies that have been involved in Galileo initiatives, all ready to meet visitors and answer questions. For everyone involved in the two programmes, the experience of coming together and presenting, for the first time, a united front in a very large public forum, appeared to be productive and ultimately very rewarding.

Blasi said that in the future the two programmes would be more likely to work together in this way. "Galileo and Copernicus really do complement each other," he said, "so it makes sense for us, the people who work on these programmes, to come together like this, to tell our stories and promote our work, which is really of great benefit to the public and industry."

More good news for European GNSS

GSA Market Development Innovation Officer Alina Hriscu also spoke at a special conference session at InterGEO, where she described in detail Galileo operational status as well as the state of play among GNSS receiver manufacturers and the wider GNSS market. She also expressed the Agency's great satisfaction with the recent launch by Broadcom of the world's first dual frequency GNSS receiver for smartphones.

Broadcom Limited is a worldwide semiconductor leader, and its new receiver, the BCM47755, will provide, among other things, lane-level accuracy with minimal power consumption and will help to enable a new range of high-precision LBS applications.

As the GSA has pointed out, Europe’s Galileo constellation is largely responsible for the expanded availability of L1/E1 and L5/E5 frequencies, making it possible to use both frequencies to compute position much more accurately.

Special Galileo student prize awarded

InterGEO 2017 was also the occasion to recognize the work of some outstanding young people, in the context of the CLGE Students Contest. Every year, the Council of European Geodetic Surveyors (CLGE) organises the contest aimed at rewarding research in various surveying-related areas.

This year, as it has in previous years, the GSA sponsored a special prize for entries that show a dedicated use of Galileo, EGNOS or Copernicus. The winner, announced at InterGEO, was Sander Varbla from the Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia.

Varbla's paper, entitled 'Assessment of marine geoid models by ship-borne GNSS profiles', presented the results of a 2016 marine gravity and GNSS campaign carried out on board the Estonian Maritime Administration survey vessel 'Jakob Prei' in the WestEstonian archipeligo.

The prize, awarded by the GSA's Hriscu, came with a check for 1000 euros. After receiving the award and thanking the GSA and contest organisers, Varbla said, "This means a lot to me. It means that my work is valued and it makes a difference, and I'm really looking forward to continuing with this kind of research."

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Updated: Oct 20, 2017