06 May 2008

NICE test!

On 24th April the NavSAS Group tested the Navigation In Case of Emergency (NICE) technology in collaboration with the Piedmont speleological alpine rescue team. The test site was in the small city of Cantalupa, near Torino. The control center was hosted in the emergency truck provided by the Civil Protection and equipped with built in VHF antennas, satellite internet connection and energy generators. NICE is a new technological application that uses GPS/EGNOS signals to provide precise positioning in difficult environments. There are a lot of devices with similar characteristics, but NICE is bidirectional and permits both to the user and to the control center to know where the user is almost in real time.

The NICE box receives the GPS raw data and sends them to the control center where they are corrected, thanks to EGNOS signal, and retransmitted to the user on the ground. NICE transmits in different ways: GPRS, VHF and soon in TETRA and DMR. The control center can visualize on a cartographic tool the users on the ground guiding them and telling them where they are already been: this is extremely important during a rescue or a research! In the test there were involved 3 rescue teams simulating a search for a missing person. During the test we demonstrate that with the NICE technology is possible to monitor the rescue teams with a few meter precision even in a very difficult environment like a valley with a high forest. Also the rescue teams can monitor where they are and where they have been tanks to a PDA. Many times the radius of uncertainty was less than two meters! At the control center the public was able to see on an lcd monitor the position of the rescue teams on a cartographic tool. The experiment was very useful even to test the reliability of our system. Sometimes we had some problems with the VHF or GPRS connection. In the end the test was quite a success. The system works and we discovered some problems never saw before in the laboratory tests. Don't worry.. We already fixed them!