Adding GRACE to GNSS

May 2009 | Comments Off on Adding GRACE to GNSS


“GRACE has been created to serve the requirements of the GNSS industry”


Paul Singh Bhatia, General Manager GRACE on initiative, focus and plans of GRACE

Paul Singh Bhatia initially qualified as a Mechanical Engineer and holds a Masters in Engineering Business Management from the University of Warwick. He has well over 15 years of experience working with industry including 5 years attracting technology driven international investment into the East Midlands region of the UK.

How did the idea of setting up GRACE come up?

The East Midlands region in the UK has always been a strong player in the development of GNSS solutions and the IESSG (Institute of Engineering Surveying and Space Geodesy) based at the University of Nottingham and headed by Professor Terry Moore is the leading university based research centre in the UK (if not Europe) in the downstream applications of satellite technology. Independent forecasts predict that the growing market for downstream GNSS could lead to the creation of up to 140000 knowledge driven new jobs by 2025 through the creation of Galileo and the UK needed to act in order to attract its fair share of these jobs. GRACE was created through a partnership between the East Midlands Development Agency, the University of Nottingham and the private sector to further stimulate the regional and national GNSS sector as a result of a major research study and stakeholder consultation that commenced in 2006.

There seem to be three separate entities coming together to form GRACE – The IESSG, CGS and a new GRACE team itself. How will the synergy between the three be achieved?

The IESSG has traditionally focussed on the development of GNSS signal and applications technology whereas the bias of the CGS has been on utilising PNT in mapping applications for LBS. GRACE can essentially be regarded as the glue that sticks the two together. GRACE is effectively the front door to the PNT and the LBS activities carried out within the University of Nottingham and will work to attract projects that further integrate the traditional activities of the 2 schools.

Will the Institute of Engineering Surveying and Space Geodesy (IESSG) and the Centre for Geospatial Science (CGS) continue to work as separate entities under GRACE?

GRACE has been conceived to provide business assistance to both the users and the developers of GNSS technology. IESSG has traditionally concentrated on the processing of GNSS signals and the CGS on the utilisation of positioning data in mapping applications. The 3 centres will for the first time be co-located in a new state of the art facility called the Nottingham Geospatial Building. GRACE will serve as the one-stop contact point for organisations operating in the domain of geospatial sciences.

Many companies are also doing GNSS research with reference to their products, how will research at GRACE be different from research being done by individual companies?

GRACE has been created to serve the requirements of the GNSS industry. So our services and product research can effectively be tailored to satisfy the needs of our stakeholders. Some major reasons for its conception have been to act as a portal for industry to collaborate together and to provide resources to organisations to access national and international research and development funds. Our intention is to invest in development tools that may otherwise be out of the reach of SMEs or that provide our stakeholders access to state of the art facilities on a project by project basis. For example we have recently partnered with Spirent to install a full Galileo/GPS signal simulator within GRACE. Not only will this equipment be used for scientific research purposes, it will also be made available to industry for use on a project by project basis. This allows SMEs in particular to develop their applications and test their services in a cost-effective and competitive way.

What areas of research are being planned at GRACE?

GRACE is currently in close discussion with its stakeholders regarding collaborative projects that will strengthen the GNSS sector in the UK. These are primarily linked to the strengthening of the industrial base and include the development of advanced testing and certification capabilities. Our clear focus is on the development of downstream services and applications. We are open to all manner of collaborations in this domain although we maintain a strong focus on ubiquitous location, combined technology platforms and solutions for PNT (Position, Navigation and Timing) provision, novel uses of GNSS including environmental applications and preparations for future GNSS. We will do this principally in conjunction with our partners whether they be regional, national or international in nature.

Will the focus of research be on GPS and Galileo, or will it include other GNSS systems as they become operational?

Right now the focus is on processing GPS, because those are the signals that exist in the sky. However GRACE was conceived to position the UK in readiness for GALILEO and other existing and forthcoming GNSS i.e. GLONASS and COMPASS. As well as SBAS and GBAS including of course EGNOS. The IESSG manages a major pan regional array of NRTK reference stations that it continues to develop in conjunction with its partners so we are starting from a strong base from which we can develop world-class AGNSS solutions. GRACE also aims to play a major role in co-ordinating international activity and we already have strong international links including with China and India. For example the Nottingham Geospatial building will host a Compass reference station.

What kinds of training courses are being planned at GRACE?

GRACE will be offering all manner if GNSS training courses from short introductory sessions on the fundamentals of GNSS, its utility and applications right through to specialised residential courses covering specialist areas such as Kalman Filtering and atmospheric scintillation. We are in the process of designing our course portfolio and welcome discussions with individuals and organisations with specific training requirements..

Would the training spectrum cover training for students as well as professionals?

GRACE will be running both in-house and client designed courses for major UK and multinational organisations. Masters level materials and teaching can also be integrated with client provided content and resources in a client designed structure. Practical sessions can be integrated into this structure, giving hands-on exposure to the latest technology available, through our up-to-date range of equipment and data processing packages. In addition, GRACE is currently assessing the demand for residential summer schools based in Nottingham and would welcome enquiries from interested parties.


Could you please tell us more about the exciting new rooftop laboratory at GRACE?

The GRACE building will have a series of geospatial laboratories, each concentrating on a specific area of interest from GNSS activities through image processing to location based services and GIS. The roof of the GRACE building has been designed to create a state of the art laboratory. It will have a series of stable monuments which are supported through the whole of the building and into the foundations. These will provide high tolerance platforms for continuously operating GNSS receivers used for both earth movement research and to provide support to the RTK Network project. The roof will be surfaced with a multipath reducing surface and obstructions have been designed to be at a minimum.

Though the new GRACE building will be ready only later this year, GRACE has already made its presence felt by hosting the ‘Growing Galileo Event’ earlier this year. What is the next event being planned at GRACE?

We have a strong schedule of events planned that GRACE will operate either by itself or in conjunction with its partners. Our next major event is the Vista conference planned for June 11. Vista is an initiative that investigates improved sensing technology, cm accurate positioning, and techniques for ensuring that assets buried in the future can be found more easily. We are also proud to be jointly hosting the Royal Institute of Navigations NAV09 Conference & Exhibition. The event will be looking at the changing landscape of positioning and navigation systems over the next 20 years. The conference will be addressed by internationally leading experts from a variety of backgrounds directly involved in this changing environment. A full events programme is being formulated so keep watching our website which is in the process of being developed into a valuable resource for industry.

University of Nottingham has campuses in various countries; would GRACE also eventually have branches in other countries as well?

GRACE is international in its outreach and the GRACE model is exportable. We will be happy to open dialogues with other nations.
As you mention UON has international campuses in China and Malaysia and we have a joint venture operation in New Zealand called the Geospatial Research Centre (GRC).

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Steve Berglund
Mark your calendar
May 09 TO DECEMBER 2009

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