WHY THE TRANSPORT SECTOR MATTERS
Transport encompasses road, rail and air and sea. It is a critical factor in economic growth and development, as inadequate transportation limits a nation’s ability to utilise its natural resources, distribute foods and other finished goods, integrate manufacturing and agriculture sectors, and supply education, medical and other infrastructural facilities.
Transport is also a wealth-creating industry in its own right:
- The logistics industry is worth £74.5 billion to the UK economy.
- The aviation sector contributes £49.6 billion (3.6%) to UK economy.
The rail sector contributes £9.3 billion in gross value add (GVA) each year, and provides £3.9 billion of tax revenue
SATELLITE APPLICATIONS IN THE TRANSPORT SECTOR
In future we will be increasingly reliant on autonomous vehicles for mission-critical systems. These will need to be robust and resilient with a wide geographical coverage, and satellites will play an important role in enabling this move. Additionally, in many areas, industry faces major barriers to entry due to the high regulatory and safety focused environment of the transport sector.
The UK Space sector already has significant industrial strengths and interest in this sector, including a significant community of developers of the high integrity and high availability software and systems that are necessary for the design, development and operation of systems for which safety is critical. The UK is also strongly engaged in using satellite-based technologies to support the implementation of satellite navigation and communication systems.
FACTS AND FIGURES
- 400,000 trucks delivering goods across the country
- Fuel accounts for 40% of a trucking company’s operational costs and many are small businesses.
- Maintain the condition of roads
- Improve traffic flow efficiency
- Reduce pollution
- Reduce fuel costs and improve routing for efficient and safe delivery
- GPS enabled on board telematics. Feedback on mileage, fuel used, vehicle speed, engine revs, throttle position, harsh breaking and use of cruise control.
Use of the resulting asset management system would be primarily aimed at local and national governments, transport agencies, and engineering firms. Additionally, long term objectives include creating employment for the local population through the provision of training to generate skilled workers to analyse satellite data, manage and maintain the transport infrastructure network.
- Autonomous vehicles (eg. Milton Keynes demonstrator)
- Automatic collision response
- Automatic slowing of car if stolen
- Smart Cars – improved maintenance scheduling (not just the annual service – predicting when something might go wrong)
- Dynamic Routing
- Driverless trains
The Challenge Background
The Satellite Applications Catapult, in partnership with Airbus and TRL, set up the Transport Infrastructure Monitoring Project (TranMon) to investigate the potential for existing and near future satellite capability to assist in the management of road assets. An initial scoping study concluded that satellite data would be particularly useful in the following areas:
- Remote areas, that are difficult or expensive to access on the ground
- Areas affected by security and safety issues
- Areas of disaster; both man-made (human displacement) and natural (hurricanes, floods, earthquakes)
Due to the global coverage and temporal frequency of satellite data, significant savings can potentially be made with regard to cost and time required to collect information on infrastructure assets, as well as reduced risk to life. These savings can be made through the ability of satellite data to provide the information required to map, monitor and assess road infrastructure condition and distribution as an alternative to the deployment of surveying teams on the ground.
The TranMon Solution
The aim of the TranMon Project was to demonstrate that the capability to perform semi-automatic road detection using satellites exists, and that road information, extracted from satellite imagery, can be incorporated and exploited in an existing road asset management system (the TRL Road Asset Management System, iROADS).
Crucially, as part of this project TRL was able to use ground-truth data, gathered in situ by its image collector survey vehicle as part of the Department for International Development funded Nigerian Infrastructure Advisory Facility (NIAF). A specialist vehicle mounted with a set of cameras navigated roads in the region and recorded its observations. This valuable data set provided calibration and validation of the satellite-derived information, to ensure the TranMon method was robust. Using this ground-truth data, validation observations produced agreements of 100% correlation for paved roads, 79% correlation for earth roads in a ‘fair condition’ and 59% correlation for earth roads in ‘fair-poor condition’.
The results demonstrated the success of the TranMon project in addressing its primary objectives.