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EC-SAFEMOBIL and DeckFinder

Putting technology in the driving seat to help save lives

Lives should not be put at risk when technology could be developed to do the job.

This is the premise behind the EC-SAFEMOBIL project, partially funded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme for driving innovation in R&D, and for which Airbus Defence and Space is a member of an international consortium drawn from industry and academia.

The EC-SAFEMOBIL partners are pooling their savoir-faire to refine and extend technologies for autonomous systems and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which can be used in a wide range of situations where access by humans is difficult or dangerous. These include search and rescue missions, especially in bad weather conditions or remote regions, monitoring and measuring of extreme events, such as the 2010 ash cloud, assisting in disaster management, or, more routinely, the safe cooperation, coordination and traffic control of multiple entities.

Missions of these kinds could be carried out or greatly facilitated by using autonomous helicopter-type vehicles which have accurate positioning capability, the ability to land on mobile platforms such as ship decks at sea, and the functionality to cooperate with other UAVs and manned aircraft – and this is a field in which Airbus Defence and Space has particular expertise.

Airbus Defence and Space’s DeckFinder landing system

Airbus Defence and Space’s principal contribution to the EC-SAFEMOBIL project is DeckFinder, an advanced sensor system enabling highly precise navigation of UAVs and helicopter drones. Transferring the principles of global navigation satellite systems to a local scale, DeckFinder uses six radio-based ‘ground satellites’ which emit signals to corresponding airborne receivers in the unmanned vehicle for position determination and fully automated, highly precise take-off and landing.

DeckFinder is an innovative spin-off product from Airbus Defence and Space’s extensive long-term involvement in satellite navigation systems, applications and services: for over 10 years, the company’s activities have covered system definition, design and construction of satellites and navigation payloads, and the implementation of advanced algorithms on the receiver side.

The EC-SAFEMOBIL project was officially inaugurated in last autumn, and initial funding has recently been awarded. The consortium leader is the Spanish aerospace institute FADA-CATEC.

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