GSA support to helicopter operators presented in the European Parliament

27 June 2017
(L to R) Alessandro Prestigiacomo (PRISM Consulting), Carmen Aguilera (GSA) and Jaime Arqué (EHA Chairman) at the EHA info day.

GSA support aimed at fostering the adoption of EGNOS and Galileo in aviation was presented at a European Helicopter Association (EHA) info day on EU funding opportunities for the helicopter sector, in Brussels on June 6.

EGNOS based operations for rotorcraft are increasingly being implemented and the GSA is committed to continuing its work with the European Helicopter Association to support this user community in reaping the safety and economic benefits from European GNSS programmes.

Three of the European GNSS Agency’s (GSA) funding tools aimed at fostering the adoption of EGNOS and Galileo in aviation – the Aviation Grant Programme, the relevant Horizon 2020 calls and Fundamental Elements – were presented at the EHA event in the European Parliament.

Speaking at the forum, GSA Market Development Officer and Horizon 2020 Coordinator Carmen Aguilera highlighted that EGNOS leads to a substantial reduction in the decision height, making helipads accessible in poor weather conditions, thereby enhancing safety, which is of particular importance for medical and emergency operations. She reminded that the Aviation Grant Programme was designed by the GSA to support projects that enable users to equip and use their aircraft or rotorcraft fleet with EGNOS-enabled avionics and to allow air navigation service providers and aerodromes/heliports to implement EGNOS-based operations. A first call in 2014 saw 12 projects funded with a total of EUR 6 million and a further 14 projects received the same amount of funding under a second call in 2015. A third call will be published in October 2017; with proposals to be submitted by March 2018 (more details can be found here).

Read this: EGNOS for aviation in acceleration mode

In addition to this specific grant programme, the GSA is also implementing the GNSS application calls in Horizon 2020 under delegation from the European Commission, within the Space work programme. Three calls in 2014 and 2015 saw 40 projects, including 10 aviation projects, receive funding totalling EUR 65 million. The 2017 call, worth EUR 33 million, is currently under evaluation and the next calls are being developed.

Fundamental Elements is the third grant programme being implemented by the GSA. This programme is aimed at supporting the development of EGNSS-enabled chipsets, receivers and antennas. A project has already been funded to develop a DFMC SBAS dual frequency multi-constellation receiver for the future version of EGNOS. This project kicked off last month. In addition, the GSA is about to start evaluating projects in other calls relevant for the aviation community – one to develop an Advanced Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring (ARAIM) system and another to develop a MEOSAR beacon.

EHA Executive Director Elisabetta Dalla Benetta said that the EHA was very proud to have been able to offer to the rotorcraft community an opportunity to have a useful insight into the EU funding system. “Lack of knowledge and complexity has often prevented our sector from fully exploiting the possibilities available for them to use EU funds to modernise their operations. But examples of success stories presented by AB Corporation, PRISM and the GSA, have demonstrated that use of EU grants is more within reach than expected,” she said.

Success stories

GSA triggered the very first helicopter PinS LPV in Europe to Insel Hospital in Bern in June 2014, which is now used by Swiss Air Ambulance (REGA) in its daily operations. A number of operators have already received support in acquiring EGNOS-enabled avionics, with 23 Points in Space (PinS) LPV, 14 low level routes (RNP 0.3) and 29 rotorcraft retrofits ongoing. Citing some success stories, Ms Aguilera gave the example of Caproni Airport in Italy, which is developing performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures for Trento region. This project involves both the upgrade of rotorcraft for EGNOS operations and the development of PinS procedures and low level routes connecting several hospitals in the area.

Watch this: EGNOS for Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS)

Another example of a success story are the PIONEERS I and II projects, which also combine the upgrade of helicopters and the implementation of low-level routes – this time in Norway, Austria and the UK. As part of this project, a first helicopter LPV approach has been approved for Trondheim Hospital in Norway, allowing air ambulances to land in all weather conditions. Also, NorksLuftambulance recently obtained operational approval for RNP 0.3 operations within a GSA funded project, preparing to fly PinS LPV.

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Updated: Jun 27, 2017