What are the mains goals of the project?
The primary goal of the Arctic-PNT project is to assist Aurora SNOWBOX in analyzing their infrastructure related to positioning and navigation. As Aurora is still in the construction phase, there is an opportunity to influence future architecture by recommending improvements to the resources for positioning and navigation. The field tests in winter conditions during Spring 2018 and Spring 2019 are intended to record as much data as possible, so that their analysis will help us in understanding the capabilities of the test site. In general, other goals of the project are to study the behavior of PNT technologies under harsh Arctic conditions in north Finland and to understand the overall eco-system of autonomous driving.
How is this project related to other arctic projects at FGI and the Aurora test ecosystem?
The Arctic-PNT project at FGI is being conducted with close collaboration and coordination with Aurora SNOWBOX from the Finnish Transport Agency. The goal of the Arctic-PNT project is to study the Aurora SNOWBOX infrastructure, especially its capabilities related to positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) of autonomous vehicles which will be tested there under Arctic conditions. We will conduct two field tests in the Aurora area to record satellite navigation signals, signals from FinnRef reference stations, data from car-based inertial sensors, and other signals of opportunity which are deployed at Aurora test site for aiding in vehicle localization, such as ultra-wideband, wifi, etc. The results of these field tests will allow us to analyze the strengths and weaknesses in precise positioning in harsh winter conditions at Aurora.
The Arctic-PNT project has started at a great time because Finland is currently Chairing the Arctic Council, and the project results can be interesting for the stake-holders in this organization. Furthermore, FGI is also involved with the ARKKI project whose goal is to study the general challenges for localization in high (Arctic) latitudes and propose innovative solutions. Together Arctic-PNT and ARKKI have a lot of synergies and will benefit the general science of precise positioning and navigation under these challenging conditions. Other projects with which FGI is/was involved related to the theme of winter/Arctic navigation are the VORIC and STORMWINDS projects. Their goal was to implement innovative algorithms for optimized routing of ships in sea-ice conditions.
What kind of tests are planned in task 2 of the project?
During the field tests we intend to equip cars with antennas, receivers, and special sensors which will measure the motion of the vehicle. The tests will start by driving along the E8 highway which runs along the western edge of Finnish Lapland from Muonio to Tromso in Norway. The Aurora test site is located along this highway. Along the way, we will record Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals from the European Galileo, American GPS, Russian GLONASS, and Chinese BeiDou systems. We will also record EGNOS (European augmentation for GPS) satellite signals. Next, we will record signals from the local FinnRef stations which should help us to improve the positioning solution obtained from processing only GNSS signals. Simultaneously to these external signals, we will record the data provided by the inertial sensors installed within the vehicle itself, for example on the wheels. These sensors allow us to measure very accurately small deviations of the vehicle along the route and to fill gaps if the external signals are temporarily lost due to obstacles (tunnels or dense forests). Finally, we hope to record any signals of opportunity that are available at Aurora, for example WiFi, ultra-wideband, etc. and investigate if they can benefit vehicle localization in any way.
Any other important aspects about Arctic-PNT?
This project is funded by the European Space Agency, and is a collaboration between FGI and Finnish Transport Agency. There may be possible collaboration with Norwegian Aurora Borealis (Norwegian portion of the SNOWBOX test route). These activities take place during Finland’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. Therefore, if this project is successful, we will not only gain a lot of new knowledge regarding performance, challenges, and innovation potential in positioning and navigation under Arctic conditions, but Finnish Lapland may be (rightfully) recognized as a very interesting place for testing and validation of autonomous vehicles and other innovative robotic solutions intended for operation under such harsh winter conditions.