On 4 March 2008, observers from around Europe saw the NLV Pharos undertake a variety of precision manoeuvres in the Bay of Oban, Scotland, including placement of a new wreck-marking buoy. Crucial to the success of the demonstration were a number of new systems developed under the MARUSE project, including innovative onboard dynamic positioning technologies and an array of new pseudolites which mimicked GALILEO satellite signals.
The demonstration in Oban was the fourth in a series undertaken by MARUSE. Participants watched the NLV Pharos in real time via closed-circuit television as it manoeuvred using GALILEO-like ground-based satellites or 'pseudolites' developed by project partner, EADS Astrium. The pseudolites were placed in various locations around Oban Bay, enabling a vessel to use GALILEO-like signals for the first time to navigate in British waters.
Powerful new navigation systems
The role of the MARUSE pseudolites in this demonstration was to mimic future GALILEO signals, but they can also serve as stand-alone infrastructure elements. "These pseudolites can be very useful in filling gaps in current GNSS services," said MARUSE project manager Stig Erik Christiansen of Norway's Kongsberg Seatex, "especially in problem areas like 'urban canyons' or deep locks in our inland waterways. And, at sea, this kind of technology can help to reduce the potentially terrible risk of collision between tankers, for example, ultimately reducing operating costs by increasing the precision and efficiency of navigation."
The demonstration was hosted by the Research and Radionavigation Directorate of the General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Northern Ireland (GLAs), which include the Northern Lighthouse Board, the Commissioners' of Irish Lights and Trinity House. The day also featured presentations on new Aids-to-Navigation (AtoNs), including the use of Virtual AtoNs, AtoN Automatic Identification Systems (AISs) and a new emergency wreck marking buoy.
Representing the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA), Stefano Scarda outlined GSA support for EGNOS and GALILEO-related R&D under the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme, also citing key European GNSS milestones such as the upcoming certification of EGNOS services and the launch of GALILEO's Giove-B satellite.
The day's starring role went to the 85-metre-long Northern Lighthouse Vessel Pharos. Welcomed into service in March 2007, the Pharos boasts an unparalleled level of sophistication, including dynamic positioning systems, a large aft working deck area, integrated bridge management system and forward helicopter flight deck. Based in Oban, she carries out a variety of tasks around the coast of Scotland and the Isle of Man, including hydrographic surveying, wreck finding and commercial work under contract.
After the successful completion of the demonstration, which involved the placement of virtual buoys and the retrieval and placement of a real emergency buoy over a simulated wreck in Oban Bay, observers were invited to board the Pharos for an up-close look at her state-of-the-art systems. MARUSE partners say she is typical of the new breed of seagoing vessel that will change the way we navigate European waters.
"Robust positioning and timing underpins our critical infrastructure, including telecommunications, energy, finance and transportation," said Sally Basker of the GLA. "MARUSE has demonstrated how innovative systems like GALILEO and virtual buoys will support the delivery of reliable, efficient and cost-effective navigation services for the benefit and safety of the mariner."