Scouting New Trends for UAVs & Space-Related Innovations

The ESNC always has been and remains being in search of newest trends and hot topics in the wide-range field of satellite navigation applications. This year’s UAV Special Prize and the University Challenge have the objective to generate game-changing ideas and solutions that are ahead of time.

The UAV Special Prize addresses civilian UAV applications, using the global satellite navigation systems (GNSS) data for groundbreaking ideas, while the University Challenge is seeking to bridge the gap from GNSS research and academia to entrepreneurship. Both of these Special Prizes are set up to provide Europe with the newest space-related innovations.

UAV’s are not only trendy objects of interest, but offer a broad application spectrum for business. Did you know that satellite navigation data is required for the exploitation of UAVs’ full potential?

Civilian UAV’s as Growth Market for Satellite Navigation and Positioning
As rapidly as drones have appeared on the market, they have evolved quickly from leisure time objects into reliable business instruments in various fields of application. These manifold application opportunities are provided by using satellite navigation signals such as GPS and Galileo for precise positioning and orientation. Therefore UAVs constitute a growth market for GNSS with very high potential.

Nowadays UAVs already find effective usage in a diverse spectrum of areas, comprising geographical surveying and cartography, fire and disaster prevention, maritime applications, coastal protection, fishing, construction and pipeline mapping, urban management, forestry, and agriculture. Currently, the financial resources of the UAV market are estimated at approximately EUR 6.3 billion, with an increasing tendency. This volume itself as well as the declining costs of UAVs’ production and the subsequent purchase price are attractive prerequisites for startups and SMEs to engage in this thriving market.

Success Stories Proving the Importance of GNSS for the UAV Market
Previous awarded winners prove how the ESNC’s successful scouting enables the transfer of brilliant ideas, tackling contemporary and future issues, into innovative businesses. The following paragraphs show how the ESNC’s pioneering submissions are not only in line with the latest trends but are even ahead of time.

Navigation apps and systems have become integral parts in today’s world. Whenever people drive to work or business meetings, visit friends or take weekend trips, navigation systems are the nearly daily companion en route. Wikitude GmbH‘s navigation application was absolutely pathbreaking and something that has never seen the face of the earth before. The 2010 ESNC Special Prize winner submitted its Wikitude Drive system as the first fully functional mobile Augmented Reality (AR) navigation system with global maps. Today, Wikitude focuses on developing its Augmented Reality Software Development Kit for apps all over the world. It has a huge AR network with over 50k registered AR developers and 40 premium partners worldwide. Already over 10k AR apps are based on Wikitude’s technology.

The Special Prize Winner 2011, CATUAV, already provided a traffic collision avoidance system for mini UAVs way ahead of time before unmanned aerial vehicles for civilian use became one of the industry’s hot topics. At that point in time, the market of civilian UAVs just started to evolve. CATUAV’s innovative system took the challenge of mini UAVs and focused on meeting legal requirements for flights within controlled air space, by making the localisation of other aircrafts possible and sending the mini UAV’s information to other aircrafts and air traffic authorities.

Since March 2015, CATUAV is one of the partners of the mapKITE initiative, including nine partners from European SMEs, aerospace and research organisations. This initiative is funded by the European GNSS Ageny (GSA) through the Horizon 2020 programme. Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever, disposing nearly EUR 80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). The objective of this programme is to take great ideas from the lab to the market and thereby achieving multiple breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts.

Just as forward-thinking as current and future work on civilian UAV applications, the ESNC University Challenge is in search of mind-blowing academic ideas which are just waiting to be put into business for the next space generation. The creativity of the submitted ideas is especially in favour of this Special Prize.

Academia Goes Business
High-quality GNSS education is a driver of innovation. The competitiveness of European companies has to be enhanced, in order to compete on the global market. GNSS academia and the tremendous potential for global cooperation it holds are of high value and should be exploited within the ESNC University Challenge.

The Special Prize’s main objective is to bridge the gap from GNSS research and academia to entrepreneurship. To be brief: Transforming brilliant ideas into business. Thereby it addresses students and research associates with a background in aerospace and GNSS-specific courses of study to be creative as possible. No matter what potential area of application submitted ideas originate from, all prospective innovators are welcome to participate and contribute their pathbreaking ideas for the future space generation. This Special Prize brings together bright minds and well connected business people.

Leading universities and institutions are partnering the University Challenge including Politecnico di Torino (POLITO), Italy, l’École Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC), France, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Spain, University of Nottingham (UNOTT), UK, and Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany. All of them organise dedicated competitors’ workshops throughout the submission phase, in order to help students and research associates bridge the gap between academia and entrepreneurship. The ESNC University Challenge is being carried out by Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO) and the GNSS Research & Applications Centre of Excellence (GRACE) with the support of several leading universities among Europe.

Make it happen
The best chances of success for your innovative idea is to submit it for a regional and one of the Special Prizes, such as the UAV Special Prize and the University Challenge. As long as the ideas are not based on the same generic theme, multiple ideas may be entered in the competition.

The ESNC’s annual search for new services, products, and business innovations is designed to encourage the use of satellite navigation in everyday life. Over the past decade, it has evolved into the leading innovation competition comprising partner regions worldwide, the largest space-related incubation network and the most relevant European GNSS stakeholders. Submission is possible each year from 1 April – 30 June at

Lena Nietbaur was Marketing & Communications Manager till December 2019.

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