How GNSS Navigation can Improve Safety Critical Navigation on the Railway

The use of GNSS in navigation, timing and related systems for transportation is ever increasing. The railways are no exception. There are various programmes underway looking at the application of GNSS to the railway for safety-critical functions. Significant among these is train location and control. Traditional line-side signalling is expensive through installation, operation and maintenance. It is inflexible; signalling headways and hence capacity are determined by physical location of signals, track circuits and associated infrastructure, and it is vulnerable; signalling cables and apparatus are frequently stolen by metal thieves – its scrap value being very high.

Much of this fixed infrastructure could be rendered obsolete by using GNSS navigation systems fitted to the railway vehicles themselves. One of the main challenges is the performance of GNSS and whether or not it is robust enough for such a highly safety-critical application. The development and evaluation of such systems is therefore also critical, and demands robust, quantifiable and certifiable test methods. GNSS RF simulation and associated RF testing is widely accepted as such a method. RF simulation hardware and software scenarios can be certified for use in international standards, because they offer repeatability, precise quantification, accuracy and integrity. No other test method can provide that level of traceability.

Standards for certification and type approval are coming, and RF simulators will be used extensively in them. Spirent’s range of GNSS test solutions are already certified by the actual GNSS design authorities for Galileo, GLONASS and GPS. They are the first choice in test tools for many safety-critical programmes of work, both public and private sector - all around the world. The people responsible for these programmes have trusted Spirent for almost 25 years, and continue to do so. Who do you trust to test your safety-critical GNSS system, let us know?

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