The second-place winner in this year’s European Satellite Navigation Competition aims to improve surveying accuracy in urban canyons or under tree canopies.
The project, Drones2GNSS, also took home the Special Prize offered by the European GNSS Agency (GSA).
Space Geomatica Ltd.’s Tripolitsiotis Achilles joined with Panagiotis Partsinevelos, SenseLab Research, Technical University of Crete, to develop Drones2GNSS.
Drones2GNSS includes a prototype drone equipped with a highly accurate GNSS receiver and a camera/laser measuring system that retrieves the coordinates of custom surveying poles featuring Wi-Fi, a prism and a target marker.
The team’s image processing algorithms and error correction techniques provide real-time, centimeter-level coordinate estimation and can simultaneously measure multiple moving surveying poles.
The processing is performed on-board the UAV without any ground-based hardware. In this way, Drones2GNSS provides a fast, reliable, cost-effective alternative for absolute coordinate positioning in obstructed environments where GNSS fails. It can cover multiple targets, including cars, people and vessels.
It also offers a basis for other related challenges, including UAV GNSS networks, indoor positioning and error mitigation.
“Although Galileo Initial Services are expected to enhance the accuracy of existing solutions, Drones2GNSS proposes an off-the-shelf application that uses European GNSS (Galileo, EGNOS) as the primary means of positioning,” Tripolitsiotis said. “As GNSS signals are degraded in obstructed environments by skyscrapers, vegetation and geomorphology, our project proposes using drones as intermediate carriers of high-precision GNSS signals that can then transfer the geolocation accuracy to the ground.”
Drones2GNSS relies heavily on multi-constellation GNSS signal, which is where Galileo will make the difference. “As current constellations like GPS and GLONASS have proven inefficient in confronting the aforementioned surveying problem, the sector continues to rely on traditional surveying techniques,” Tripolitsiotis said. “However, with the launch of the Galileo era and the utilization of the Drones2GNSS approach, we can now provide surveying engineers a cost effective, accurate and fast positioning solution.”