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Advanced Multi-Constellation EGNSS Augmentation and Monitoring Network and its Application in Precision Agriculture

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - AUDITOR (Advanced Multi-Constellation EGNSS Augmentation and Monitoring Network and its Application in Precision Agriculture)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-06-30

The goal of the project is the implementation of novel precise positioning differential techniques based on augmentation data in custom GNSS receivers to improve the performance of current augmentation services reducing costs. These techniques have proven to offer better accuracy with faster convergence times than differential solutions commercially available. Moreover, more sophisticated atmospheric models are being implemented to provide better corrections of ionospheric errors to enable further increased accuracy at the user side. All these advances are being integrated in a software demonstrator that will use public data from GNSS networks and will be able to generate and apply these corrections in near real time.

A custom dual-frequency receiver module is being implemented, following an innovative approach, porting a GNSS software-defined receiver to an embedded system that will integrate hardware accelerators to enable real-time operation in a low power system. The form factor and capabilities of the resulting receiver will be comparable to existing professional market receivers, while retaining all the advantages of software receivers: modularity, scalability, upgradability and flexibility.

Besides, providing multi-frequency multi-constellation support, this advanced receiver will allow very low level access to key internals even at sample level, enabling the integration of other complementary techniques. The fact that the software layer will be the evolution of an existing and successful open-source project, GNSS-SDR, will allow GNSS developers and researchers to customize the code of the receiver.
Based on the above aspects, low-cost effective precision agriculture (PA) services to farmers will be enabled, especially to those with small and medium-sized businesses in areas of Europe where EGNOS availability may be poor under certain conditions, in order to increase production rates with less input of any kind (agrochemicals, water, energy, person-hours) improving economic profitability and simultaneously increasing sustainability.
Taking into account the requirements/state of the art and designed AUDITOR subsystems, in the second period, the implementation of the full AUDITOR system was performed.
AUDITOR subsystems were implemented, tested and validated. This includes the HW/SW related to the GNSS receiver, which presented important challenges that required multiple prototypes iterations and heavy software development. The iBOGART subsystems and network modules were also validated with test data streams and later with the Greece trials data provided by the GNSS receiver.
Related to AUDITOR business plan:
AUDITOR is expected to provide its added value features in key European PA agriculture applications like Tractor Guidance, Automatic Steering and VRA (Variable rate applications) composed by c. 300 k GNSS devices by in 2023, i.e. roughly 180 €m in that year.
The interesting market outlook is offset by a strong competition that is forcing AUDITOR to quickly cover the gap towards its competitors (mainly WW coverage via internet, development of the L-Band satellite transmission capabilities, and reaching of 4 cm @ 20’ conv. time) and afterward to offer a cheaper-than-market solution, operating via a B2B model.
Even in such a competitive market the prospects for AUDITOR are deemed positive, with NPV of c. 12€m in the case of offering of the sole augmentation service and NPV of c. 9€m if a GNSS Rx is bundled together with the augmentation algorithm
AUDITOR trials were complete successfully with minor deviations:
Netherlands Trials:
Robot trials were defined, and trial fields were located.
Robot was run with existing receivers.
Data was logged for later processing with AUDITOR software.
Castelldefels preliminary trials:
System trials with fixed antennas at CTTC headquarters. Experiments of RTCM streaming and RINEX generation.
Greece Trials:
Field trials in a vineyard. AUDITOR receiver mounted on tractor. L1 and L2 signal collection.
Barcelona Trials:
Filed trials in a wheat crop. AUDITOR receiver mounted on combine harvester. L1 and L2 signal collection.
AUDITOR will present several improvements as compared to existing systems:
• The use of WARTK/MSTIDs techniques permits longer baselines between the permanent receivers in the GNSS network, reducing dramatically the required infrastructure to provide prompter and more accurate corrections to enable precise positioning. The WARTK testing on a real scenario and its improvements to enable it are indeed progress beyond the state of the art. A solution to enable the applicability of WARTK corrections by means of RTKLIB is being searched at the moment. This would also imply that ionospheric corrections that rely on Open Data could be applied by all GNSS users without significant investments, thanks to reusing existing infrastructure.
• The newest improvements and findings on MSTIDs modeling will be taken into account, resulting into less accuracy performance limitations
• Reduction in convergence times
• Hardware engine and embedded software implementation to allow low-power real time operation while retaining all the flexibility of SDR implementations, targeting specifically open, low cost and multi-frequency Galileo and EGNOS receivers
All these advances will be offered to the Precision Agriculture market in different key services, such as agricultural machinery navigation, data analysis service or variable rate applications.