Space for unmanned cargo vehicles – Interview with Laurence Duquerroy, European Space Agency

Space for unmanned cargo vehicles – Interview with Laurence Duquerroy, European Space Agency

Laurence Duquerroy
 is project manager in the Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Directorate of the European Space Agency, Mrs. Duquerroy is contributing to the development of new applications and services involving Satellite Communications, Satellite Earth Observations and Satellite Navigation technologies. She is in particular leading projects related to aerial and maritime domains. Laurence Duquerroy will speak at the Cargo Innovation Conference in Venlo, The Netherlands, on June 14.

IAP, why is it needed?

The Integrated Applications Promotion (IAP) element of ESA’s ARTES programme is dedicated to the development of innovative sustainable services for a wide range of users making use of one or more space assets. In a nutshell, IAP is needed for daily life!

“These could be satellite communications, Earth observation, satellite navigation, space weather, human spaceflight technologies. Integrated Applications projects offer solutions to problems that range from improving and securing transport systems to developing emergency and disaster management systems, addressing users/customers needs in a variety of economic sectors. 

The integration of these space assets with other technologies can provide innovative services generating high socio-economic benefits in terms of revenues, investment leverage, exports, jobs and other societal benefits. In addition, the programme leads to a better exploitation of existing space capacity and know-how leading to a better understanding of how they should evolve to meet user requirements in the future societies.” according to Mrs. Duquerroy.

What can you do about beyond radio line of sight conditions, is the transfer of information as quick as with radio?

Satellite communications can be used to command and control unmanned platforms when terrestrial communications are not available, i.e. when in overseas, remote land areas, or out of range of the terrestrial radio communication station. A number of experiments have already been performed and are still on-going, in particular with remotely piloted aircraft systems, to demonstrate the safety of operations in beyond radio line of sight using satcom. An example thereof is the joint ESA IAP and European Defence Agency DeSIRE initiative ( and

During the DeSIRE project was demonstrated that the delay of transmission, although higher than with radio line of sight means (i.e. in the order of 1 second or even less with some systems), did not impair operations and was assessed acceptable by involved air traffic controllers and pilot.  In addition with the upcoming satellite communications systems relying on LEO satellite megaconstellations (such as OneWeb or LeoSat), this latency will be dramatically reduced.

Sat Nav for traffic, can you handle so much info 24/7 all over the world?

Mrs Duquerroy explains: “Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as Galileo, and satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS), such as EGNOS, offer  a worldwide coverage achieved  thanks to constellations of satellites spread over several orbital planes.  These satellites are broadcasting radio signals, allowing small electronic receivers to determine their location with a high precision. Geolocation and time information can be generated by these receivers anywhere and anytime where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more satellites. Such information is instrumental for a number of applications, including navigation for road, maritime and air transport.”

SAR in aerial applications, how far can you zoom in, and what about clouds?

Search and Rescue in aerial applications could be dramatically enhanced using ADS-B signals collected from space.

ADS-B signals, which are periodically broadcasted by airplanes, contain aircraft identification, position, velocity and position integrity, enabling aircraft to be tracked. Recent studies and trials have confirmed the possibility to detect ADS-B signals from space, independently of the weather. This encouraging result, together with aviation sector needs, have triggered the development of space-based ADS-B (ADS-B SAT) technologies and systems. In the US, initial steps in this direction have been undertaken by Aireon to deliver space-based ADS-B data to Air Navigation Service Providers and other Stakeholders.

Space based ADS-B will in particular allow the early detection and notification of anomalous manned -but also unmanned- air vehicles behaviors such as airplane routes deviating from the nominal ones, as well as the provision of “aircraft last known position or area” for search and rescue applications, irrespective of the remoteness of the area being flown and of any possible cloud coverage.

What are the developments on SAT com, especially for unmanned aircraft?

“Past and on-going test and demonstration activities, in particular for unmanned aircraft systems, have shown that current satellite systems (in  L, Ku and Ka frequency bands)  offer sufficient capacity to transmit command and control communications between an unmanned platform and its ground control station  in a safe and reliable manner. Coverage offered by satellite operators today allows to enable such communications over the globe.

The bandwidth will be further improved in the near term future thanks to the deployment of Mega-constellation satellite systems and Very High Throughput satellites,” concludes mrs. Duquerroy.

For more information and registration to the Cargo Innovation Conference, we invite you to visit

The interview was made by Jakajima, the organiser of the conference. For more interviews with speakers at Jakajima conferences, we invite you to visit Jakajima’s website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.