Small satellites can provide a method for accurate navigation indoors – INCUBATE project receives EUR 950 000 funding from the Building the Future - Taking Action programme

The research project led by the University of Vaasa receives funding in the amount of EUR 950,000 from the Building the Future - Taking Action programme of the Centennial Foundation of the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries and Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation. The project will research the application of small satellite technology for precise positioning of indoor spaces and navigation. A new small satellite will also be designed in the project. The partners are National Land Survey of Finland, University of Tampere and Aalto University.

A sufficiently accurate positioning service that works seamlessly in outdoor and indoor spaces does not currently exist. GPS does not work reliably indoors and between high buildings in cities, not to mention telling the room or floor of the location.

– A solution for precise positioning, navigation and timing can be found by utilising LEO small satellites that orbit the earth at a low altitude. They send a stronger signal to the earth than the traditional positioning satellites and orbit the earth faster than them, even in 40 minutes. If proposals about building an internet based on small satellites are realised, there will be about 50,000 active satellites orbiting the earth in ten years, says Professor Heidi Kuusniemi, Director of Digital Economy research platform at University of Vaasa, who heads the project.

In the new three-year INdoor navigation form CUBesAt Technology i.e. INCUBATE research project, the objective is to study how positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) based on small satellites can be used in indoor spaces.

– We also research the commercial potential of the solution and revenue possibilities, partly jointly with companies. The technology developed in the project will offer extensive application potential for many industry sectors, says Kuusniemi.

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Heidi Kuusniemi
Professor Heidi Kuusniemi, Director of Digital Economy research platform, University of Vaasa will head the new INCUBATE project.

A new small satellite to handle accurate positioning

The aim is to also design a new small satellite FinnPNTSat in the project for positioning.

– Small satellites will be in a big role in the future, both in science and in commercial use. Finland has already taken the leading position in a few space technology sectors, and small, inexpensive navigation technology may well be the next breakthrough. Aalto is proud to join the best experts in Finland in taking next generation positioning technology to the international space arena, says Assistant Professor Jaan Praks from Aalto University.

The researchers intend to also develop the use of current small satellites for positioning, as well as new payload, i.e. equipment and software carried by the satellite, to improve navigation solutions.

The satellite signal and its reception must be optimised so that a sufficiently high-performing satellite signal can be defined for accurate positioning and navigation.

– The project researches the interesting signal processing possibilities of wireless systems of the future for use in navigation and communication based on small satellites, says Professor Elena-Simona Lohan from Tampere University.

Practical signal processing is made easier, because two of the partners in the project are involved in a project in which a KvarkenSat small satellite is currently being designed for a slightly different purpose. Its launch is planned for 2022.

– For National Land Survey of Finland, it is also important that the accuracy and availability of positioning data are improved. This project supports this goal by improving the reliability of positioning also in challenging conditions, says Professor Sanna Kaasalainen from the department of Navigation and Positioning of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute of the National Land Survey of Finland. 

Multidisciplinary expertise benefits a pioneering project

Multidisciplinary and mutually complementary expertise of University of Vaasa, National Land Survey of Finland, Tampere University and Aalto University helps develop pioneering solutions.

– The entire chain of expertise needed is involved in the project; extensive experience in signal processing, sensor technology, new space economy, i.e. new business opportunities and services, satellite navigation systems, wireless telecommunications, as well as satellite and platform development, says Heidi Kuusniemi.

From the University of Vaasa, the Digital Economy research platform headed by Heidi Kuusniemi is involved in the project, as well as the International Business and Marketing research group represented in the project by Arto Ojala, Professor of International Business. Other researchers in the project are Kendall Rutledge and Petri Välisuo, Jani Boutellier and Mohammed Elmusrati, together with their doctoral researchers.

In the Building the Future - Taking Action programme, ambitious research initiatives are funded

The Centennial Foundation of the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries and Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation are funding ambitious research initiatives that look to the future through the Building the Future - Taking Action programme. The focus areas for 2020 are digital technologies and service models that sustainably build the renewal of Finnish industry and society.

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Project: INdoor navigation form CUBesAt Technology (INCUBATE)
Duration: 1 January 2021–31 December 2023
Financier: Building the Future - Taking Action programme of the Centennial Foundation of the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries and Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation
External funding: EUR 950,000
Project partners: University of Vaasa, National Land Survey of Finland, Tampere University and Aalto University
Project leader: Professor Heidi Kuusniemi, Digital Economy research platform, University of Vaasa

Further information

Project director Heidi Kuusniemi, University of Vaasa, tel. +358 29 449 8504, email heidi.kuusniemi@univaasa.fi
Jaan Praks, Aalto University tel. +358 50 4205847, email jaan.praks@aalto.fi
Elena-Simona Lohan, Tampere University tel. +358 40 8490669, email elena-simona.lohan@tuni.fi
Sanna Kaasalainen, National Land Survey of Finland, department of Navigation and Positioning, Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, tel. +358 50 369 6806, email sanna.kaasalainen@nls.fi

 

 

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