On the Edge: Galileo to the Rescue

February 1, 2011  - By

By Lars Holstein

The alarm operations center for the state of Bavaria receives this message from the accident location, and swiftly moves into coordinating activity, gathering and distributing real-time geospatial data and other key information to all emergency teams and medical facilities in the area. A demonstration of large-scale rescue operations showed how Galileo-based positioning signals in the Galileo test-bed in Berchtesgaden, Germany can more efficiently organize complex and costly rescue work through use of GNSS-supported mobile navigation devices.

Current decision-making aids in the field of search-and-rescue offer only a limited IT-supported common operational picture (COP). Many components for a full solution are still lacking. Heterogeneity in sensor networks and proprietary system designs limit interoperability and flexibility, hampering the creation of a full COP across collaborating organizations.


mergency Alert: Bus collision in Berchtesgaden, parking area Salzbergwerk. Many injured. Bus overturned, some thrown from vehicle, some trapped inside. Local temperature below freezing, snow falling. All crews respond immediately.”

An extensive training exercise (photo above) performed by the Fire Brigade, Bavarian Red Cross, and German Federal Agency for Technical Relief focused on challenges and advantages in this framework.
The ERA-Star Project G2Real integrates real-time Earth-observation data and onsite measurements, leveraging existing and emerging open geospatial consortia. Spanish, Austrian, and Bavarian research institutes and enterprises collaborated to prepare and upgrade a COP based on integrated live information, satellite-navigation, and remote sensing. The overall aim is utilization of GNSS-enabled tools and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) services to support search-and-rescue operations. The specific goal is a common, real-time COP that can be used by the local primary control unit/service command vehicle and by higher ranking administrations.


The common operational picture (COP).

Mission control, decision, and guidance was coordinated from a remote control room, where the mission leader, through the COP, knew everything about the position of accident vehicles, victims, rescue vehicles, and rescue team personnel, and could track their status and locations in real time. Local team chiefs on the ground also had access to this data through their mobile devices.

The mission leader could plan resources for the ensuing phases of transport and treatment, and teams on the ground could communicate with each other via a simple mobile phone application, which replaced existing calls and radio voice signals and facilitated operations and coordination.

GNSS receivers were installed in a fire engine using Galileo, GPS, and GLONASS signals to achieve best practice across all phases of emergency management. The Galileo signals were furnished by the Galileo Test and Development Environment (GATE), provided by eight transmitters atop the Alpine ridges surrounding Berchtesgaden.

Lars Holstein is project manager for Initiative Satellite Navigation Berchtesgadener Land.



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