Satellite navigation applications

Satellite navigation applications

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Satellite navigation applications


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Transport > Intelligent transport and navigation by satellite

Satellite navigation applications

Document or Iniciative

Green Paper of 12 December 2006 on Satellite Navigation Applications [COM(2006) 769 final – Not published in the Official Journal]


The market in products and services generated by the introduction of satellite navigation is forecast to reach 400 billion by 2025. Galileo, a flagship programme of European space policy, together with Egnos, is part of the GNSS (global navigation satellite system) providing a range of positioning, navigation and timing services.

The Green Paper also underscores the Commission’s aim of fostering innovation in the wider context of the Lisbon strategy, under which the public sector should promote the EU’s competitiveness at world level.

The Green Paper outlines the sectors set to benefit from the introduction of the Galileo system as a result of the large number of applications that it will be possible to develop. The areas of application for satellite navigation include:

  • location-based services and emergency calls: through the integration of the Galileo system’s receivers in a large number of devices such as mobile phones, location-based services and personal mobility are the main markets for satellite navigation. Customers will be able to access specific “vicinity” information (the nearest hospital or the best way to a restaurant, etc.);
  • road transport: this area also covers a wide range of applications, from navigation devices to automatic toll systems, safety applications and pay-per-use insurance. Galileo thus ties in with the eSafety initiative, which includes a wide range of applications that could make use of accurate vehicle positioning;
  • rail transport: railway infrastructure includes signalling and train location systems, mainly installed at track side. These are gradually being replaced by the ERTMS/ETCS systems. Galileo will help to improve the safety of train speed control and operating systems;
  • maritime, inland waterway and fisheries navigation: the efficiency, safety and optimisation of marine transportation can benefit from satellite navigation. Galileo should provide benefits for safety applications, safety improvements and automatic identification systems (AISs). It can also be used for port approaches. Directive 2005/44/EC recommends the use of satellite positioning technologies for vessel tracking and tracing in inland waterway transport;
  • air transport: satellite navigation opens up highly interesting prospects in this field. The analyses point to strong growth in air traffic up to 2025. The accuracy and integrity of the Galileo system will enable the use of existing airports to be optimised. The SESAR joint undertaking, which implements the legal framework laid down in the single European sky regulations, will also rely on satellite navigation;
  • civil protection, emergency management and humanitarian aid: helping people after earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and other natural or man-made disasters requires the location of people, assets and resources. Satellite navigation should shorten the response times of rescue services and optimise their deployment;
  • dangerous goods: the legal framework will need to be updated to take account of the many options that Galileo will offer. In the event of problems, satellite navigation can also improve emergency response;
  • livestock transport: every year millions of animals are transported in the European Union. Traceability of livestock is of paramount importance to prevent sanitary fraud, ensure food safety and protect animal welfare. Regulation (EC) No 1/2005, which lays down the requirements for the transport of animals, requires the use of satellite navigation systems in all new trucks for long journeys;
  • agriculture, parcel measurement, geodesy and cadastral survey: 11 million farmers grow crops on 110 million hectares of land in the EU. The location and size of parcels are key data for use in information exchange, whether for commercial purposes or applying for subsidies. Monitoring payments under the common agricultural policy requires increasingly detailed information. Farmers also make use of satellite navigation to optimise crops, reduce fertiliser and pesticide inputs and ensure effective use of land and water. Satellite navigation systems can also simplify and improve the quality of data collection in geodesy and cadastral surveys;
  • energy, oil and gas: industry makes extensive use of satellite navigation systems for exploration and exploitation. The safety and security of oil and gas transport can also benefit from the positioning functions offered by Galileo. It can also improve the synchronisation of electricity distribution networks;
  • search and rescue services: by allowing near real-time reception of distress messages from anywhere on Earth with precise location information and contact between rescue centres and people in distress, Galileo will facilitate rescue operations and reduce the rate of false alarms. This also has implications for the fight against illegal immigration and the ability to rescue migrants in distress at sea;
  • a wide range of other applications: these include logistics, the environment, science and the maintenance of public order: satellite navigation systems can also benefit the logistics sector and facilitate multimodality. Other sectors could not be covered in this Green Paper: public transport, public works and civil engineering, immigration and border control, police, monitoring of prisoners, biomass production and feedstock management, environmental management, medical applications and people with disabilities, scientific research, hunting, sports, tourism, waste disposal, etc.

Ethical and privacy issues

What impact will the development of satellite navigation systems have on privacy? The Green Paper points out that all the Member States of the European Union are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees respect for “private and family life, home and correspondence”. Directive 2002/58/EC governs the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector.

The range of public action

The public authorities are encouraging the development of satellite navigation technologies. Measures have been taken in a number of areas including support for research and the adoption of the right regulatory framework. The areas of action are:

  • research and innovation;
  • cooperation between SMEs and the European business networks;
  • international cooperation;
  • standardisation, certification and liability;
  • safeguarding the radioelectrical frequency spectrum and promoting the allocation of new frequency bands;
  • protecting intellectual property rights;
  • adapting legislation to new technologies and innovation.

The Green Paper also contains a questionnaire as part of a consultation procedure. The replies will serve as a basis for drawing up recommendations to the Council and Parliament.

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