Skyopener test highlights EGNSS benefits for drones

July 29, 2019  - By
EGNSS improves positioning integrity and accuracy for the Boreal drone. (Photo: GSA)

EGNSS improves positioning integrity and accuracy for the Boreal drone. (Photo: GSA)

News from the European GNSS Agency

The Skyopener project, co-financed by the European GNSS Agency (GSA), aims to pave the way toward increased use of remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) in civil applications.

The project has tested the benefits of multi-frequency GNSS and EGNOS in RPAS, revealing gains in availability, accuracy and robustness.

There is increasing demand to operate RPAS over long distances because of their potential for a wide range of civil applications. However, regulation regarding RPAS use in civil airspace does not yet allow beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations, and remotely piloted aircraft are not allowed to fly in non-segregated civil airspace and are not yet widely used for civil and commercial applications.

This is something that Skyopener aims to change.

RPAS for civil applications. The project is developing operational processes that will reduce all categories of risks associated with RPAS and allow an air navigation service provider (ANSP) to manage very-low-level RPAS operations. Thanks to the benefits it offers in terms of improved integrity and positioning accuracy, EGNSS (Galileo and EGNOS) will play a central role in these processes.

Through these operational processes, Skyopener will contribute to the roadmap for the integration of civil RPAS into non-segregated airspace, which will have a huge impact on the service applications that can be offered by these aircraft.

“Systems that enable RPAS to fly safely, in compliance with regulations, will enable market access and significantly reduce the cost of insurance premiums for RPAS operators, making a wide range of RPAS applications more commercially attractive and widely used,” said Marc Pollina, CEO of Skyopener consortium member M3 Systems.

Excellent results. A test conducted by the project into the benefits of multi-frequency GNSS and EGNOS has delivered excellent results. The test found that the use of GPS and Galileo in L1/E1 and L5/E5 multi-frequency combinations provides improved availability, better accuracy and greater robustness against interference, as interference with one frequency band has no effect on the second.

What’s more, EGNOS helps meet increasingly stringent requirements for robust navigation, continuity, accuracy and availability — further complemented by Galileo’s multi-constellation capacity and integration with other sensors such as inertial or vision sensors.

The Boreal drone used in the project is a fixed-wing system that operates over a long range (more than 100 kilometers) in BVLOS, with EGNOS and Galileo enhancing navigation by improving positioning integrity and accuracy. In addition, the RPAS is equipped with a newly developed communication and navigation surveillance (CNS) system that combines use of GNSS, satcom and special security measures.

Essential GNSS. GNSS technologies are essential for RPAS. The primary need is obviously for navigation — the RPAS uses GNSS waypoints to follow the trajectory defined in its mission. However, GNSS also addresses other key needs, such as geofencing to ensure that the RPAS keeps within the mission parameters and surveillance to enable adequate tracking by the operator and civil aviation authority.

GNSS also enables high accuracy and, ultimately, automated landing and the geo-referencing of collected data. These benefits will increase in the future, with the Galileo authentication service reducing the risk of threats, and PPP data correction on E6 providing better geo-referencing.

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About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.