Delivering safety on airport runways

French and Portuguese partners have developed a satellite navigation-based system for managing airport ground traffic.

The Eureka-funded Safedrive project, coordinated by France's M3 Systems, is using EGNOS satellite navigation signals to provide better information to vehicle drivers and better safety for flight crews and passengers as airports become busier. With more planes on runways and therefore more ground-based support vehicles, there is a need for ever-tightening coordination of aircraft and taxiway and runway support.

In just a few short years, satellite positioning has become a standard and essential tool for navigating. Ship and aircraft crews, cars and trucks around the world would all be hard-pressed to revert to traditional navigation methods if GPS signals were switched off tomorrow. Europe is working towards establishing its own navigation satellite system, Galileo. EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) is essentially Europe's 'pre-Galileo' system, its first concrete venture into satellite navigation.

"EGNOS is the European complement to GPS," explains Safedrive project coordinator Marc Pollina. "It is an augmentation system that improves the reliability and precision of GPS positioning. This added reliability is a key requirement for people and vehicles operating in critical areas such as airports."

The Safedrive project is advancing EGNOS-based technologies and service provision by developing key components such as a new modular vehicle transponder, providing user interface, navigation and communication capabilities. In addition, an innovative ground coordination station will host vehicle management applications, including monitoring and situation preparation capabilities, interfacing with vehicle transponders via wireless UHF or Wi-Fi links, and with air traffic control and airport operators.

"In simple terms," says Pollina, "Safedrive transmits vehicle position to a ground coordination station and broadcasts the airport situation from the coordination station to the vehicle. This increases situation awareness of vehicle drivers and also provides vehicle location to other airport personnel."

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