Siemens researchers have developed simulation software that can test the precision of Galileo, Europe's satellite system of the future - even though not all of the satellites are yet in position.
A collaborative undertaking between the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA), the 3,6 bn Euro Galileo project will go into operation in 2010. When it comes to determining positions, the system is expected to be even more precise than GPS, today's navigation standard. With this improved performance, entirely new services will be possible.
The principle of satellite navigation is simple; satellites continually transmit signals that are picked up by receivers. Such a signal contains information on the satellite transmitting it and on the time at which it is sent. At the same time, the receiver has the coordinates of the individual orbits. Using the signals sent by a number of satellites, the receiver then calculates its own position.
Thanks to a denser network of satellites and improved algorithms, Galileo will have a margin of error of only one metre when determining a position - an unprecedented degree of precision. Reception of the signals in cities will also be much improved. Private users will thus be able to use less expensive receivers, which makes the service more attractive. The new system features more than 30 satellites and is linked with the 24 satellites of the American GPS, because a Galileo receiver can also receive GPS signals. The 54 satellites will make it possible to provide an entirely new navigation service, and the combination of mobile communications and satellite navigation will be more efficient.
Developed at Siemens' Roke Manor research centre in southern England, the software is based on the signals to be transmitted by Galileo and includes GPS. This makes it possible to calculate whether a receiver can also detect navigation signals under unfavourable conditions. By analysing blueprint plans and ground plans of buildings as well as satellite and aerial photographs of cities, the software accurately forecasts signal strength and expected measurement errors.
Plans call for the simulation to be integrated into a system that is now being developed by experts at Siemens Communications in Berlin. With the help of the Galileo satellites and mobile communications base stations such as GSM and UMTS, the system will be able to precisely determine the position of mobile devices. This in turn will make it possible to offer attractively priced navigation services for use with mobile phones.
For more information contact Martin Snoek, Siemens Southern Africa, +27 (0)11 652 2000.
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