From 1st April to 30th June 2016, the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) - the largest international competition for the commercial use of satellite navigation - will once again be looking for outstanding ideas and business models. Renowned institutions and regional partners are set to award prizes worth a total of €1m in more than 25 categories.
In our modern, data-driven economy, satellite navigation is a crucial technology that facilitates constant and reliable object localisation - the bedrock of the IoT. Since 2004, the ESNC has evolved into a leading fixture in the New Space Economy by provided a public innovation platform for turning promising ideas into market-ready products.
Each year, the competition unveils new trends and more than 500 business ideas. It has already awarded prizes to more than 270 winners over the years, which represent just a fraction of the nearly 3,500 innovative concepts submitted by over 10,000 total participants. Through a one-of-a-kind network that includes the ESA Business Incubation Centres and other incubators across Europe, the ESNC plays a decisive role in the realisation of these ideas by supporting the foundation of startups and creating high-tech jobs.
Drones have quickly transformed from novel objects of leisure to serious business tools. In order to operate safely, drones rely on satellite navigation signals such as GPS and Galileo for precise positioning and orientation. They thus represent a promising growth market for global satellite navigation systems (GNSS). Today, UAVs are used in a variety of sectors, including geographical surveying and cartography, fire and disaster prevention, maritime applications, coastal protection, fishing, construction and pipeline mapping, urban management, forestry, and agriculture.
The volume of the drone market is currently estimated at €6.3bn, and steady growth is projected for the decade ahead. This presents tremendous potential, particularly for startups and SMEs. The drone trend has also emerged in the ideas submitted to the ESNC, which selected a drone application - POSEIDRON - as its overall winner for the first time in 2015. Developed by the Spanish startup Sincratech Aeronautics, this multicopter is equipped with infrared cameras and uses the European positioning service EGNOS to save lives at sea.
"We had this really crazy idea to pull off something big - specifically, to revolutionise search-and-rescue services," reveals Loles Albiol Simó, Project Manager at Sincratech Aeronautics. "We wanted to make a statement in the UAV sector and make it an essential part of the aviation and downstream space industry. Being recognised by the ESNC and receiving that positive feedback encouraged us to make our dream come true."
"We believe civilian drones have enormous potential in connection with the ESNC," states Thorsten Rudolph, CEO, Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen and initiator of the competition. "We want to focus even more on the topic this year to promote the foundation of more visionary companies in the surrounding future market."
This year's winners will take home prizes worth a total of €1m and be welcomed into the ESNC's leading innovation network for global satellite navigation systems. Along with cash, the various prize categories on offer primarily include technical, business-related, and legal support in realising the winning business models. A jury of international experts from the realms of research and industry will also evaluate the winners of all the categories to select an overall winner, who will be revealed at the festive Awards Ceremony.
Those who enter the ESNC also stand to benefit greatly from the opportunity to work closely with leading institutions and regional partners. The ESNC is geared towards individuals and teams from companies, research facilities, and universities around the world. Those interested can enter the competition from 1st April to 30th June 2016 at www.esnc.eu. In ESNC 2016, prizes are to be sponsored by the following partner regions and institutions: the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), and the Horizon 2020 project BELS.
Prototypes can also be entered into the GNSS Living Lab Challenge. The University Challenge, meanwhile, is explicitly designed for students and university research assistants. This year's confirmed partner regions are: Asia, Austria, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, the Czech Republic, Flanders, France, Galicia, Hesse, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Madrid, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Valencia. More to follow soon.
Following the resounding success of last year's joint kick-off event, the ESNC and Copernicus Masters will bring their global networks for satellite navigation and Earth observation together once again in 2016. This year, the industry's most important stakeholders will gather at an information event scheduled to be held from 9:30 to 11:20 am on 2nd June as part of Europe's biggest conference for aerospace-based applications - European Space Solutions 2016 in The Hague.