Nearly 20 years after its beginnings, the EGNOS system has closed its development phase with official authorization of its use for civil-aviation landings in Europe, including, on 17 October in Santander airport, implementation of the first operational EGNOS landing system in Spain.
EGNOS was born from a mutually held and coordinated vision in Europe, bringing together in a common endeavor civil-aviation organizations and service providers such as the Spanish Airport and Air Navigation Authority (AENA), Eurocontrol, the European Space Agency and Europe’s aerospace industry as a whole at the start of the nineties.
The project posed an enormous challenge. Satellite navigation applications in Europe at that time were in a very inchoate state, with a lot to learn and everything to do. Far removed from today’s situation when GPS is a household word and the news that it is to be used for landing aircraft is less likely to be received as a surprising breakthrough than spark off comments like “about time too; I’ve had it in my car for years”.
But back in the mid-nineties the situation was very different. Only a few industries or institutions in Europe had developed any professional experience in GPS applications. GMV was one of the few trailblazing satellite navigation firms, in which a set of Spanish engineers, very young back then, drew on all their courage, ambition and a touch of foolhardiness to leave their mark in an industrial field still to be developed but with the brightest future.
Right from the word go, the road towards today’s EGNOS has been long, difficult and tortuous. GMV engineers, together with many others in Spain and the rest of Europe, participated in initial system definitions and contributed in the various design phases to shape the system’s features into those we know today.
GMV, rising to the challenge like few others, took on responsibility for the design, development and certification of the Central Processing Facility Processing Set (CPFPS), often dubbed the “heart” of the EGNOS System since it calculates in real time all information allowing users to exploit the advantages of the EGNOS service, together with a whole series of associated elements supporting the validation and analysis of system performance at all levels.
In hard figures EGNOS represents for GMV a cumulative contract value of over 60 million euros to date, with a working team that peaked at over 50 people in GMV alone. Even today we still have about 20 engineers working full time on system maintenance and tweaks. But EGNOS’s present is by no means at loggerheads with its future. We are already working on a new development designed to fine-tune system performance and operation in the short term, up to 2020. Europe is already moving towards a new EGNOS generation, capable of integrating with the Galileo constellation and exploiting new transmission frequencies for providing services with even stricter standards of safety, dependability and precision. GMV itself is making a big R&D effort to steal a march on this future development and gird our loins for the upcoming challenges.
A lot has happened in these last 20 years. We young engineers of back then are no longer so young. Many setbacks, a few coups, some sleepless nights, many moments of depression and some of euphoria, but at the end of the day EGNOS is here and it’s here to stay. System operation is now spreading and is bound to bring in important benefits for civil aviation in Europe, boosting the efficiency and safety of air navigation.
And GMV’s new generation of young engineers working on EGNOS are no less courageous or ambitious than those of 20 years ago. And the future is now in their hands. Mind you, we trust they’ll be slightly less foolhardy … or maybe not.
Author: Nestor Zarraoa
Las opiniones vertidas por el autor son enteramente suyas y no siempre representan la opinión de GMV
The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of GMV