Stories of the Finnish Arctic Expertise

Authorities and researchers seek solutions to Arctic navigation

16.4.2018

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Satellite navigation is part of our everyday life, in communications networks and transport services, for example. In the Arctic region, the navigation systems do not function optimally.

On 16–18 April 2018, authorities, researchers and business representatives of European and Arctic countries convene in Muonio, Finland, to seek solutions to these problems in a workshop called Challenges in Arctic Navigation. The event is part of Finland's Chairmanship Programme for the Arctic Council. The Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) host the workshop. The Arctic countries have not previously met to work specifically on the feasibility of positioning systems in northern latitudes.

"I am pleased that the event brings together, for the first time, all Arctic countries to address the challenges of positioning in northern areas,” says Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner.

The landing of airplanes is one concrete example of an Arctic problem in satellite navigation. It is possible with satellite navigation in Central Europe but not in the Arctic region. This is because the network of base stations needed to focus the satellite signals is not dense enough in the northern areas. Another reason for the poorer accuracy of a navigation system are satellite flight paths.

“As accurate and reliable positioning is needed in the north as in Central Europe. Currently the systems are unable to serve the Arctic areas comprehensively. Now we are trying to find answers to this,” says Minister Berner.

Satellite positioning is tightly related to the development of intelligent transport systems and services. The challenge in the Nordic areas is the uneven coverage of positioning. It unnecessarily slows down the development of autonomous transport in particular.

“In the next generation Galileo satellites, the northern dimension will be better taken into account and they will provide more accurate information in high latitudes,” notes Heidi Kuusniemi, Director at the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute.

As the chair of the Arctic Council, Finland is paying particular attention to positioning and good communication connections, safety of maritime transport and development of meteorological cooperation. All these fields are tightly connected to positioning and satellite technology.

The event in Muonio is organised in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Geospatial Research Institute as part of the Arkki project financed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

“In the Olos workshop, the participants work in teams to reflect on the challenges to Arctic navigation and to suggest ways to solve them”, explains Arkki project manager Martti Kirkko-Jaakkola of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute.

“We have researchers, but also policy-makers and authorities, for example the Canadian Coast Guard, as well as business actors participating. As we come from different backgrounds, we get to share viewpoints. I am really looking forward to the workshop results.”

Image: Satellite positioning reference station covered in snow. Photo (c) FGI.