Funding for safe drone navigation

April 2020

The European Space Agency (ESA) has funded Ampyx Power, developer of a next-generation wind energy technology, and Omnisense, developer of locating and tracking solutions, to develop a robust fail-safe navigation system. The positioning solution will be used for automated take-off and landing of Ampyx Power’s wind energy aircraft when applied offshore or over rugged terrain. The technology will be enabling as well for other drones in critical applications.

Ampyx Power develops Airborne Wind Energy Systems (AWES) using autonomous tethered aircraft as a means for generating electricity on the ground. The launch and land deck is smaller than the wing span of the aircraft. High accuracy, availability and integrity of the relative positioning between aircraft and platform is required during the final horizontal approach to ensure safe landing of the aircraft in the case of GNSS outage. The funding will cover the integration into the navigation solution of a local positioning system that seeks to provide 10 cm of relative positioning accuracy with 100 Hz update rate and an operating range up to 1 km. Ultra-wide band positioning techniques will be used to make this happen.

Michiel Kruijff, Head of Technology at Ampyx Power: ”The project allows us to integrate a backup local positioning system into the existing high-end navigation solution. This novel navigation technology will ensure that our aircraft can overfly the platform with great accuracy, even in case of GNSS failure. This solution is particularly relevant for use cases in rugged terrain or offshore where other affordable means of relative positioning would be too costly or would offer insufficient performance or availability. We seek such a high level of system robustness both for commercial reasons and for safety reasons, in line with our certification approach with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).”

Andy Thurman, CEO at Omnisense: ”We are pleased to offer our innovative local positioning system (LPS) to this project. The closely time-synchronised fusion of ultrawideband (UWB) signals exchanged between landing deck and aircraft mounted Omnisense beacons, will allow highly accurate range measurements to be provided to the drone autopilot, enabling continuous operation in the safety critical landing phase. The enhanced capabilities which arise as a result of this project will enable Omnisense to extend the market reach for our flexible LPS offering from the industrial asset and animal tracking markets in which we currently operate, to more dynamic applications such as GNSS denied drone control, autonomous vehicles in smart cities and sports performance analysis.”



About Ampyx Power

Ampyx Power is developing a compact Airborne Wind Energy System (AWES) with an aircraft tethered to a generator on the ground. The system accesses the higher and more powerful winds above 200 m, requiring much less material to construct, smaller foundation, and infrastructure than existing technologies. AWES has the potential to be a very cost-effective way to harvesting wind energy by increasing the usability of deployment sites for off-shore re-powering, deep off-shore and remote on-shore. The Ampyx Power team that consists of over 50 employees of more than 15 different nationalities is working from The Hague in the Netherlands and Melbourne, Australia. In 2020 another office will be opened in Ireland.


About Omnisense

Founded in Cambridge in 2009 Omnisense has developed an enabling technology where devices form peer-to-peer mesh networks which accurately determine relative positions and velocities using radio signals without pre-installed infrastructure. The system is based around a simple architecture which is more flexible, lower cost, and easier to deploy than comparative technologies. In combination with GNSS, inertial and other techniques this leads to a unique self-organising positioning system with clear ROI benefits, that can be applied in many situations. Omnisense sells location and navigation related products, software and services.

About ESA’s NAVISP Programme

Since 2017, the Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NAVISP) encourages European industry – Large system integrators as well as SMEs and Start-ups -, but also Universities,  Research Institutions and public entities to generate new exciting ideas within the Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) sector, through the following axis:

Element 1: Fostering innovation in satellite Navigation through competitive.

Element 2: Boosting the development of PNT competitive products.

Element 3: Supporting PNT National Programmes of Member States.

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