Carlo des Dorides, Executive Director of the European GNSS Agency (GSA): Galileo is the only civilian GNSS system

  1. You work for Galileo from the beginning of the program, how has it changed for these 13 years? Have you achieved the goals you set in 2004, or?


With some foresight, 20 years ago the EU recognised the need for a European-controlled satellite navigation system. In the years since, the EU has successfully launched and implemented EGNOS and, at the end of last year, EC declared Galileo Initial Services. The declaration of Initial Services is the first step toward full operational capability, which will occur when the Galileo constellation is complete by 2020. Between the declaration of Initial Services and full operational capability, additional satellites will be added to the constellation and new services will become available.

In other words, the service most relevant for surveying and mapping community, Galileo Open Service is now ready to use, delivering already added value to end-users.

That being said, I believe the real change is happening in the GNSS market, where the growing demand for precise location information – in combination with the ongoing evolution of GNSS technology – means that today’s GNSS market is bigger than ever. GNSS is now a ubiquitous technology that, along with other technologies, is used by an ever-growing number of applications and services. According to the GSA’s most recent GNSS Market Report, the global GNSS market is expected to grow from 5.8 billion devices in 2017 to an estimated 8 billion by 2020. Furthermore, the GNSS downstream market is expected to produce over €70 billion in revenue annually. When the revenue created by added-value services is included, this number could more than double.

  1. Where is the place of Europe on the international scene on the way of the exploitation of space? Do you think that the achievements of Russia, the United States and China surpass those of Europe just because these countries have more ambitions and the Europeans are somehow more humane oriented even in this sphere?


In my opinion, Galileo’s – and thus Europe’s – advantage isn’t found only in the satellites, but in the services and benefits these satellites create for European citizens and businesses. First of all, Galileo is the only civilian GNSS system, the others being governed by their respective national military authorities. With Galileo, Europe will enjoy substantial economic growth. As to economic benefits, the additional reliability, continuity and availability provided by Galileo is expected to enable a range of new applications and services that will benefit from increased positioning reliability, thus further driving economic growth in Europe and beyond.

It is this development of new, downstream market applications that is the key to strengthening European industry and its ability to compete. In line with this, the GSA has been actively involved in the funding process via the successful FP7 and Horizon 2020 framework programmes for research and innovation, among others. These programmes, which aim to ensure that space remains accessible to Europe and safe to operate in the long run, have already produced tangible results.

But if Europe is to remain competitive, especially against the US, there is a need to go further. In comparison to the funding for space-related R&D in the US, the US has a clear advantage over Europe in its large internal market that was created via government spending on space. When it comes to investment in civil space R&D, the US invests twice as much as Europe. Furthermore, in the US, such innovation giants as Google and SpaceX are thinking outside the box and using innovation to disrupt the space sector. In order to maintain its leadership position against such competition, Europe needs to build on its strengths and better coordinate funding, encourage risk taking and promote the benefits of space to the European public.

  1. Currently Galileo has 18 satellites in orbit, and the European Commission has commissioned new 8 at the end of June. Is the creation of Galileo running on schedule? When is the next satellite launch?


With the launch of Galileo Initial Services last year, we are on schedule for reaching Full Operational Capability by 2020. Between now and 2020, additional satellites will be added to the constellation, allowing new services to become available. Four additional satellites are expected to be launched in the by the end of this year, further enlarging the Galileo constellation and improving its global performance. The complete constellation will consist of 30 satellites in orbit (24 operational and six spares).


  1. There is one satellite that does not work. We usually learn from our mistakes, what are the problems with it and what we have learnt?


Indeed one satellite launched in 2014 (GSAT0104) is not usable for PVT determination mainly due to a power failure. However, this satellite still transmits Search and Rescue (SAR) signals. The good news are that all the other 17 satellites launched before and after do not have this issue.


  1. How many satellites are planned for the complete Galileo system? We know that the idea is to create so-called Walker constellation 27: 3: 1? When will this happen? 2020 is not that far, what to expect then?

As mentioned above (question three), the complete constellation will consist of 30 satellites in orbit (24 operational and six spares). Full Operational Capability will happen in 2020. Once completed, users will benefit from Galileo’s full first-class performance, reliability and coverage.


  1. Will we be able to change our mobile phone system and instead of GPS to use Galileo? Is there an idea about common European regulation on this issue?


As Galileo joins GPS and other global and regional GNSS systems, the multi-constellation concept becomes a reality. What this means for users, is that by using a single device with a multi-constellation enabled chipset the device can receive signals from any number of satellites, resulting in more accurate and reliable positioning. As such, the user will not know which system they are using, and it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is having better accuracy and more reliable positioning regardless of where they are – and Galileo, as part of a multi-constellation environment, helps provide this. In fact today there are already 18 models of smartphones that use Galileo in addition to other GNSS constellations.

As to a common European regulation, the EU is mandating that certain devices have GNSS capability. For example, according to European Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/79, all new M1 (i.e. passenger cars) and N1 (i.e., light duty vehicles) types sold on the EU market must be equipped with eCall in-vehicle GNSS systems as of 31 March 2018. The wireless system will automatically trigger a distress signal to the 112-based eCall interoperable service in the event of an accident, using GNSS technologies (including Galileo and EGNOS) to indicate the precise location of the incident.


  1. How will Galileo be superior to GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou?

First and foremost, it is important to note that Galileo is fully interoperable/compatible with other GNSS systems, including GPS. This combination provides users with considerable improvements, including stronger performance and service levels. With Galileo satellites working in conjunction with GPS and other GNSS systems, there are more satellites available, meaning more accurate and reliable positioning for end users. In particular, navigation in cities, where satellite signals can often be blocked by tall buildings, benefit from the increased positioning accuracy this provides. So in this sense, Galileo is an equal among many GNSS systems.

As for the technical performance, Galileo is a newly designed GNSS system and therefore it includes the most modern, the state-of-the-art technologies. Galileo’s signals have the highest Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) among the current GNSS constellations. Additionally, the double frequency Open Service on E1/E5 is the most robust against multi-path errors. As E5/L5 becomes the second frequency of choice (replacing L2) for all the constellations, Galileo has an advantage by offering the most numerous E5 satellites already today.

Another unique differentiator is the Galileo Commercial Service will offer two services: the High-Accuracy, with PPP-like accuracy directly via the satellites therefore ensuring global availability at any point on the globe and not relying of ground infrastructures for the transmission of the corrections. The other service within Galileo CS consists in a signal authentication that gives additional assurance that the actual position is really based on Galileo satellites and thus not manipulated for example by spoofing attacks.

That being said, Galileo’s key differentiator remains that it is the only civil-based GNSS initiative. Whereas the United States’ GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and China’s Beidou systems – among others – are all operated by their respective militaries, Europe’s Galileo programme stands alone as the world’s only option for GNSS under civil control. This is an important distinction, especially as the world’s dependence on GNSS continues to increase. From individuals to private businesses, the public sector and academia, as more and more services become dependent on the availability of an accurate GNSS signal, the implications of a possible signal failure become increasingly dangerous.

  1. When completed, will Galileo continue to work with the other systems – GPS, GLONASS and Beidou?


Yes, as a multi-constellation system (see answer 7) is only possible because Galileo was built to be fully interoperable/compatible with other GNSS systems, including GPS. The EU and the USA have been close partners in the area of satellite navigation since 2004, when both signed a historic agreement establishing cooperation between GPS and Europe’s then-planned Galileo system. The cooperation aimed to ensure that GPS and Galileo would be interoperable at the user level for the benefit of civil users around the world and that, together, they would facilitate the growth of the GNSS market – commitments that are bearing fruit today. The ongoing compatibility of Galileo with other systems provides users with considerable improvements, including stronger performance and service levels.


  1. Do you expect more accuracy than the gained by atomic clocks in navigation in the future – may be by optical or quantum clocks?

On one hand, the timing accuracy provided by the atomic clocks is stringently related to positioning accuracy. The current atomic clocks on Galileo and on the other GNSS satellites are already now precise enough to allow the possibly the most accurate determination of positioning. The error sources are not duet to the atomic clocks, but due to the quality of the on-ground receiver clocks, multiple errors in the signal propagation (atmospheric, ionospheric, etc.), intrinsic radio-wave based positioning techniques, etc. Typically a centimetre level precision is obtained with augmentation techniques (RTK, PPP) leveraging this high timing accuracy of the atomic clocks.

On the other hand, GNSS provides direct and accurate access to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), essential for the operations of critical infrastructures. The very precise timing accuracy provided by the Galileo Open Service plays a critical role in such infrastructures as power grids, as well as for the telecom sector and financial services. However, its role as part of today’s modern infrastructure is often unrecognised since it is only exposed when it fails. We saw this in January 2016 when a software upload to GPS satellites induced a 13 millisecond misalignment – a seemingly small difference that had a big global impact. The glitch caused GPS receivers to exhibit different and unwanted behaviour that led to a loss of synchronisation across a number of systems, including power grids and financial markets. Although the issue was quickly detected and resolved in a few hours, it nonetheless had a real global impact, with numerous digital TV and radio networks failing and some financial customers reporting issues.

This reliance on GNSS timing will only increase as smarter power grids are developed and more sophisticated mobile communication networks, such as 5G, are deployed in support of the Internet of Things and other sensor networks. All of these will require more and better synchronisation, for which the timing precision of Galileo’s Open Service is essential.

Currently, the GNSS T&S segment is driven by the telecommunications sector, which represents around 90% of overall GNSS device shipments. By 2020, 5G is expected to be a new paradigm in the telecom industry, providing higher data rates and requiring further synchronisation accuracy. EGNSS should be able to contribute to meeting these more demanding accuracy requirements.

In the field of energy, GNSS is used to provide a precise timing marker at nodal points of networks to ensure proper monitoring and protection against failure. GNSS can also improve the efficiency of the electricity supply network, detecting and reacting to local changes in usage, thereby helping to make energy grids ‘smarter’.

In financial trading, GNSS is used in trade timestamping in line with upcoming new regulatory frameworks that will require financial operators to trace and synchronise trades with financial computer systems. Accuracy and compliance with regulations are particularly important for the confidence of those using trading platforms.


  1. Galileo’s benefits are many: the Internet of things; location-based services (LBS); emergency, security and humanitarian services; science, environment, weather; transport; agriculture; fisheries; civil engineering;  time-reference function. Will the system be available for any EU country? Which of the benefits is the most important?

Not only is Galileo available across the EU, it’s available across the globe. With Galileo Initial Services, users anywhere in the world can be guided using the positioning, navigation and timing information provided by Galileo’s global satellite constellation. Regardless of location, all one needs is a mass-market device containing a Galileo-enabled chipset, such as smartphones and vehicle navigation devices. Today, 17 companies, representing more than 95% of the global satellite navigation supply market, produce Galileo-ready chips. These include such key chipset manufacturers as u-blox, Broadcom, Mediatek, Intel and Qualcomm. There are also a number (18) of Galileo-ready smartphones and in-vehicle navigation systems on the market. A full list of available Galileo compatible products can be found at

As to which benefits are the most important, that depends entirely on how one is using Galileo. For example, if you are navigating in a city, where satellite signals can often be blocked by tall buildings, you will benefit from the increased positioning accuracy Galileo provides. Galileo’s accurate timing will contribute to enabling more resilient synchronisation of banking and financial transactions, telecommunication and energy distribution networks to help them operate more efficiently. And Galileo’s Search and Rescue service reduces the time it takes to detect emergency distress beacons from up to three hours to just ten minutes. As distress beacon locations will also be determined more accurately, people lost at sea or in the mountains can be rescued more quickly.

Galileo will also benefit a range of sectors, including:

  • Road transportation: Satellites support in-vehicle navigation, fleet management, road tolling and speed monitoring. Already today, Galileo ensures the authenticity of the satellite signals these services depend on, enabling autonomous driving and connected vehicles.
  • Mapping and surveying: With Galileo satellites working together with GPS, there are more satellites in the sky, meaning more reliable and accurate positioning. Additionally, by using E5 the users will experience less multipath errors – of particular importance to surveyors operating in such challenging environments as cities, dense forests or at sea.
  • Maritime: Officially recognised by the International Maritime Organisation as part of its Worldwide Radio Navigation System, Galileo plays an important role in maritime navigation. Whether it’s at sea, in a busy port or through a narrow canal, Galileo helps ensure the safe navigation of the maritime sector.
  • Agriculture: Thanks to precision farming, powered in part by Galileo, European farmers are maximising yields, increasing productivity, optimising the use of fertilisers and herbicides and lowering their environmental impact.
  • Location based services (LBS): With Galileo, the positioning information provided by smartphones is more accurate and reliable – particularly useful in urban environments where narrow streets and tall buildings often block satellite signals and limit the usefulness of many mobile services.
  • Rail: Galileo will soon deliver improved availability and enhanced accuracy for numerous safety-critical rail applications – of particular interest for Europe’s many low-density lines.
  • Aviation: With global air traffic increasing, there is growing pressure to better utilise Europe’s airspace. EGNOS – the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service – helps accomplish this by enabling more accurate routes, optimising airport access and improving flight safety. In the near future, Galileo will support aviation operators, while receivers for Unmanned Autonomous Systems (UAS) are already using Galileo.
  • Timing and Synchronisation
  1. The GSA discussed the many benefits that European GNSS, in particular Galileo, brought to the mapping and surveying sector during the EUREF 2017 Symposium in Wroclaw, Poland. As an efficient tool for mapping and surveying, GNSS is often used by solutions requiring centimetre-level accuracy. Will the applications of Galileo replace classical geodesy?


Not necessarily replace, but complement and enhance the current techniques, Galileo will remain an integral instrument for geodesists. As Professor Alessandro Caporali of Italy’s University of Padova explained at the EUREF symposium, geodetic techniques measure the situation on the earth’s surface, while modern space technologies, including Galileo, extend these observations to orbiting satellites. As a result, today the position of particular sites on the earth’s surface and its variation is known to the sub-millimetre level for the period of decades.


  1. What are the benefits to geodesists? Would you give some tips for application of Galileo?


As an efficient tool for mapping, GNSS is widely used by organisations such as utility companies and regional and local authorities, most often being employed by services requiring centimetre level accuracy (although for GIS and many mapping applications metre-level is sufficient). Specifically as to the GSA’s contribution to this market segment, for several years now EGNOS has been contributing to the growing use of GNSS in real time mapping solutions by providing free metre-level accuracy that is widely available. In a nutshell, EGNOS eliminates the need for complex and costly equipment and software solutions and the investment in the required infrastructure of augmentation service providers.

For high-precision users demanding positioning services with sub-decimetre level accuracy, which can only be achieved using augmentation services (e.g. Real Time Kinematic (RTK), Precise Point Positioning (PPP), etc.), the Galileo Open Service comes into play. This free-of-charge service offers either single (E1) or dual frequency (E1/E5), which further improves such augmentation services as RTK/DGNSS or PPP solutions. The resulting benefits to surveyors, especially in multi-constellation environments, are many. For example, surveyors will enjoy easier mitigation of multipath errors, higher signal-to-noise ratio, increased availability, continuity and reliability, and better operation in such harsh environments as urban/natural canyons or under tree canopies. The Galileo Open Service also provides the unique capability to detect the spoofing attacks by the OS Navigation Message Authentication (OS-NMA).

In addition, we also have PPP-based Galileo’s Commercial Service High Accuracy (CS-HA), which is dedicated to high precision applications. CS-HA is planned to directly deliver corrections around the world via Galileo satellites and without the need for an additional communication channel. This will allow for the development of many high accuracy applications across all segments. Furthermore, CS-HA offers triple frequency with faster convergence time for surveying applications and with an achievable accuracy comparable to RTK. The Commercial Service Authentication (CS-Auth), is planned to deliver the spoofing detection capabilities via an encrypted channel.

But of course all of these benefits can only be used if the geodetic community is ‘Galileo ready’. According to a recent GSA survey of the sector, 77% of responding RTK service providers indicated that they have enough information to integrate Galileo into their systems, while 41% say they are already fully prepared to use Galileo signals. In total, 78% of RTK reference networks have plans to upgrade to Galileo in 2017. As for other commercial PPP based services, the major players already fully upgraded to Galileo.

To facilitate this uptake, the GSA is heavily involved in several funding initiatives, most notably the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation. In addition, we regularly sponsor the Council of European Geodetic Surveyors’ (CLGE) Young Surveyors Award for applications using Galileo, EGNOS or Copernicus signals. The 2017 award ceremony has just taken place at InterGeo fair on the 27th of September. The winner, Sander Varbla (Estonia), was rewarded for his work on using GNSS signals for refining the geoid model for the seabed in the Baltic Sea.


  1. What is the Galileo Open Service?


The Galileo Open Service (OS) is an open and free-of-charge service providing users with authenticated positioning and timing information. The authentication is provided by the Open Service Navigation Message Authentication (OS-NMA), a feature that lets users verify that a navigation message in fact comes from a Galileo satellite and not a potentially malicious source. It is currently available as part of Galileo’s Initial Services.

With the Open Service, all enabled receivers in, for example, a smartphone or in-car navigation system can receive a signal from a Galileo satellite in order to compute its position and to help with navigation. On the one hand, the positioning service enhances and complements the positioning provided by GPS and other GNSS programmes to provide a ranging accuracy of between 2 and 7 metres and 95 % availability. The timing service, on the other hand, offers a very high accuracy of 30 nanoseconds and a level of robustness required for infrastructure synchronisation activities.

In addition to its use in Location Based Services (such as those cited above), the OS will play a significant role in the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is already everywhere, connecting smartphones, tablets and industrial and home appliances and making roads, cities, factories and appliances smarter. In every sector of the economy, IoT enables objects to exchange data with manufacturers, operators and other devices to create a vast integrated network of connected things and services that is expected to surpass a volume of 50 billion by the time the OS is fully operational in 2020. As such, the Galileo Open Service will play a key role in providing the positioning, velocity and timing information required by an increasing number of context-aware applications. Specifically, the Galileo Open Service’s authenticated open signal provides IoT with better accuracy and availability due to its signal strength in such difficult environments as in the city.

The OS, however, is not limited to ‘consumer’ devices, but is also highly beneficial to high-precision users demanding positioning services with sub-decimetre level accuracy, which can only be achieved using augmentation services (e.g. Real Time Kinematic (RTK), Precise Point Positioning (PPP), etc.). Here, the Open Service offers either single (E1) or dual frequency (E1/E5), which further improves such augmentation services as RTK/DGNSS or PPP solutions. The resulting benefits to surveyors, especially in multi-constellation environments, are many. For example, surveyors will enjoy easier mitigation of multipath errors, higher signal-to-noise ratio, increased availability, continuity and reliability, and better operation in such harsh environments as urban/natural canyons and under tree canopies. More so, the OS also provides enhanced protection against spoofing.


  1. The matter of business or the matter of science is the future of technology?


It’s both. We need the science to create the technology, such as the Galileo satellites, and we need the business to ensure that the end users benefit from Galileo. I like to say that the Galileo equation is made up of four parts: the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA), the GSA and industry. After all, it is ultimately the industrial sector that is developing and operating the Galileo system. But thanks to prior collaboration between the GSA and this sector, Galileo arrives onto a market ready and able to immediately start using it.

To further increase the level of Galileo integration, the GSA continues to work directly with chipset and receiver manufacturers. Through technology workshops, sharing Galileo updates, co-marketing efforts, and dedicated funding for receiver development projects and studies, the GSA is working with manufacturers to build an even better navigation experience.

As to testing, or ‘the science’, the GSA coordinated a comprehensive testing program in cooperation with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the ESA. More than 460 hours of tests and 91 hours of live in-field testing have been conducted, verifying how different models integrate Galileo signals. This information allows manufacturers to update their technology and get the most out of the system’s increased accuracy and reliability within a multi-constellation environment.

The GSA also launched its Fundamental Elements Programme, a research and development (R&D) funding mechanism supporting the development of chipsets and receivers. The programme will run through 2020 and has a projected budget of about EUR 100 million. The main objective of the initiative is to support the development of innovative chipset and receiver technologies across different sectors of the economy and promote the development of such “fundamental elements” as Galileo-enabled chipsets and receivers.

The programme offers two types of financing: grants and procurement. Grants are provided with financing currently foreseen for up to 70% of the total value of the grant agreement, with intellectual property rights staying with the beneficiary (with conditions). Procurement, on the other hand, is used only in cases where keeping intellectual property rights allow for the better fulfillment of the program’s objectives and are financed 100%.

Fundamental Elements is in addition to, and complements, the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research programme, which aims to foster adoption of Galileo via content and application development, and thus focuses on the integration of services provided by Galileo into devices and their commercialisation.

Last but not least, we also regularly publish indepth market research, including our GNSS Market Report and GNSS User Technology Report, the former of which has established itself as the go-to resource for global GNSS market intelligence.


  1. What will be the paid services from Galileo?


The Commercial Service will offer two services: the High-Accuracy, with PPP-like accuracy directly via the satellites therefore ensuring global availability at any point on the globe and not relying of ground infrastructures for the transmission of the corrections. The second service is Authentication, that will support anti-spoofing by offering a digital stamp indicating that the signals are coming from the Galileo satellites themselves and not from any other source. The scheme to offer such services (paid, free, etc.), is currently under evaluation.


  1. Recently, the creation of common European defence is a well discussed subject. Could Galileo become a military system?


One of Galileo’s key differentiators – and advantages – is that it is a civil system under civilian control.


  1. What will be the next goal after the implementation of Galileo in full volume?


By the time the system reaches full operational capability, Galileo will be positioned as the second GNSS constellation of choice in multi-GNSS receivers. The GSA will continue in its responsibility for Galileo operations and service provision, ensuring a return on investment from Galileo in the form of clear, across-the-board services and applications for end users. As Europe’s link between space technology and user needs, and in-line with Europe’s new Space Strategy, the job of the GSA is to keep end-user needs at the centre of Galileo. The GSA is a unique EU body created to ensure that this vital link is established across all user groups. To support this will continue to invest in the research, technology and applications needed to bring the benefits of space to all EU citizens. At the same time, activities on for shaping the next generation of Galileo satellites are already ongoing.


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