Working together for a more navigable world

January 15, 2020  - By

“Diverse teams bring diverse ideas to the table, and that’s the best way to progress.”

So said Professor Sheila Rowan, the UK government’s chief scientific advisor to Scotland, opening the Royal Institute of Navigation’s 2019 International Navigation Conference. Professor Rowan’s comments set the scene perfectly. Success in navigation is no longer about just getting a fix, or even an accurate fix. To succeed as a system or application provider, diversity and collaboration are key, whether it be multiple disciplines and the skills that go with them, or a mix of ages, beliefs and backgrounds. So, what were some key messages to emerge from four days of working together?

John Pottle opens the 2019 International Navigation Conference sponsored by the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN). (Photo: RIN)

John Pottle opens the 2019 International Navigation Conference sponsored by the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN). (Photo: RIN)

More practical help for non-experts wanting to improve resilience in positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) is needed. The top request from delegates at the pre-conference short course was for more detailed and specific information on threats to PNT. Of particular interest were how to measure the impacts and test the merits of various mitigation approaches. In other words: how to assess risk? How to decide what steps to take?

User acceptance and regulatory/legal structures for driverless vehicles are greater challenges than the positioning and communications technology. In the UK and across Europe, projects are under way to evaluate good practices for so-called “beyond line of sight” drone flights. For driverless cars, while huge strides have been taken to enable secure and resilient absolute and relative positioning, much remains to be done. Practical issues were highlighted, such as over-cautious vehicles and a tendency for driverless cars to make occupants feel more travel sick. So work needs to be done to avoid a stressfully slow and sickly experience.

Skills and knowledge are changing — and education/training needs to, too. A major developed-world problem is that the experts with experience who have seen generation after generation of technology evolution are now in their later careers or retired. Because of the wealth of knowledge vested in these individuals — we can all think of some, I’m sure — organizations have tended to over-rely on them. A key theme of the conference closing plenary was that the community wants to do more to collaborate — that word again — to define training needs and figure out how to deliver the skills that are needed today and tomorrow.

The next couple of years bring fewer, bigger navigation conferences in Europe. The European Navigation Conference (ENC) 2020 takes place in Dresden, May 11–14, organized by the German Institute of Navigation, DGON. ENC2021 will be combined with the triennial global congress of the International Association of Institutes of Navigation (IAIN), Nov. 15–18, 2021, in Edinburgh, organized by the Royal Institute of Navigation.

Please save the dates — joining these events is rewarding and stimulating as we work together toward a more navigable world.

John Pottle is director of the Royal Institute of Navigation.