Telespazio UK awarded ESA project for VHF-based positioning system

Telespazio UK has been awarded a new contract by ESA, the European Space Agency, for the development of a new PNT (Position, Navigation and Timing) system based on data exchange over VHF to act as an alternative to GPS.

The VDES-R Advanced User Technologies for Alternative PNT (VAUTAP) project forms part of ESA’s Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NavISP). Telespazio will work as prime contractor, with Kongsberg Seatex of Norway as a sub-contractor on the development of the technology.

VDES stands for VHF data exchange system, a communications channel for maritime systems. VDES-R is a PNT system that can operate independently of GNSS, which will be developed for maritime use within the project to offer an alternative to GPS and similar satellite navigation systems that are vulnerable to natural interference, jamming and spoofing.

VDES is a new maritime radio communication system being developed by the international maritime community with open standards, on a frequency band recently allocated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Studies are ongoing to investigate the potential use of these VDES communication signals transmitted from shore-based stations for positioning, a concept commonly referred to as ‘ranging mode’, or R-Mode.

Telespazio notes that VDES R-Mode is still at a relatively low Technology Readiness Level and much of the standardisation required for such System-of-Systems components are not yet in place, giving developers the opportunity to propose and develop better waveforms, techniques, components, and concepts to provide resilient PNT.

“This is a great opportunity for us to be part of this important ESA project, which will build on the work that has already been done within the Alternative-PNT arena, especially with new maritime concepts,” said Mark Hewer, CEO of Telespazio UK.

“We are pleased to be leading such a strong team and look forward to developing a proof of concept that will help protect against malicious threats to GNSS systems and ultimately will make an important difference to maritime users.”

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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