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Insight

Green Light for European Satellite Navigation

Last Wednesday, the European Commission announced that Europe's four Galileo satellites had been successfully tested to give a position fix (longitude, latitude, and altitude), demonstrating the Last Wednesday, the European Commission announced that Europe's four Galileo satellites had been successfully tested to give a position fix (longitude, latitude, and altitude), demonstrating the ability of the Galileo programme to develop a global satellite navigation system under European control.  It is expected that the launch of further satellites will enable the first services to be introduced in 2014, with full service being achieved in 2020.

Galileo is interoperable with (but not dependent upon) GPS and Glonass, the US and Russian global satellite navigation systems.  The first two satellites were launched in 2011, with two more following in 2012; and two Galileo ground control centres have been set up in Europe to control and manage the satellites and mission.  Once completed, the Galileo constellation (comprising 30 satellites) will benefit users by allowing them to obtain a fix on their exact position with greater precision and reliability than the current US system.  It will also allow better coverage than the US system at high latitudes, meaning that Northern Europe will benefit in particular.  Galileo is also more resistant to interference.

The system is expected to be very important for the Eurozone economies.  The market for global navigation satellite products and services is currently valued at €124 billion per annum worldwide, which is expected to increase to €244 billion by 2020.  Market research estimates that around 7% of Europe's GDP in 2009, or €800 billion, relied on satellite navigation signals which are currently provided by the US system.  Galileo will allow Europeans to exploit satellite navigation signals to a much greater extent and with less US dependency than is currently possible.

The indirect benefits are also expected to be significant.  It is well recognised that technological advances from research in the space industry spill over very readily into other sectors.  Research suggests that every €100 million invested in space research leads to an increase in GDP of €70 million in the longer term in other sectors (such as health and medicine, transport, and computer science).

The advice from the European Commission is that now is the time to begin preparations for taking advantage of the enhanced precision and better coverage and availability of the navigation signals from Galileo.  By looking ahead, businesses that develop innovative services using Galileo data will be well placed to take advantage of the new service.  Galileo is also expected to create a range of new business opportunities for equipment manufacturers, application developers and providers of ‘reliability-critical' services.  The European Commission suggests that "some derived services could, for example, help avoid car crashes, help visually and motor impaired people navigate, expedite the transport of dangerous goods, survey costal water depth and facilitate intelligent salt-spreading during the winter".  Galileo could also be used for emergency services, critical transportation/energy/telecoms, and defence purposes.

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