Research projects of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute receive funding from the Academy of Finland

Research in space geodesy and in self-driving cars at the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute has been boosted by funding from the Academy of Finland. The new projects involve three projects from the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute.

New Academy projects in the field of Natural Sciences and Engineering are Juha Hyyppä's Autonomous Driving on Snow-Covered Terrain and Markku Poutanen's From quasars to geodesy: how astronomy can enable a new era in ultra-precise geodetic measurements. Moreover, Juha Hyyppä's Lidar-based energy efficient ICT solutions project received funding from the ICT 2023 programme. In total, 1.5 million euros were granted to these projects.

Driving conditions and energy efficiency challenges to autonomous cars

Self-driving cars have attracted a lot of interest. The vision is a future where you can leave the driving to a machine. Autonomous cars are expected to increase traffic safety and decrease the need for private driving and parking space in cities. The challenge for cold-climate countries is, however, how the self-driving car manages in changeable weather conditions.

In the new Academy project, the challenge is tackled by the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute's researchers' extensive competence in remote sensing, sensors and algorithm development, and a self-driving test car. In September, the needed licences will be applied for the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute's autonomous car's test drives. It will become the third autonomous car with test licence in Finland.

To be able to drive autonomously, the car needs to collect and process a large amount of 3D data from the surroundings. Moreover, it needs to communicate with data centres and its surroundings. With modern technology this consumes a lot of energy and may make the automation of traffic unsustainable for the environment. The ICT Academy project studies energy-efficient solutions based on new sensor technology in self-driving cars.

VLBI measurements in space geodesy make it easier to determine the Earth's orientation

The project of the joint research consortium of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute and Aalto University develops new methods with which the Earth's orientation can be determined more accurately. The aim of the project is to improve the accuracy of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) observations.

The VLBI technology combines signals from far-away astronomical radio sources, such as quasars, simultaneously received by radio telescopes in different parts of the world. This enables a very accurate measurement of both the structure of the quasars and the position of the telescopes. VLBI measurements are used in astronomy and geodesy. In geodesy, observations obtained from the measurements are used in monitoring the Earth's orientation and in maintaining a global coordinate system, which enable, for instance, the use of positioning satellites. As the accuracy of the system improves, the satellite positioning also becomes more efficient. An accurate coordinate system also lays an essential foundation for the observation of many global changes.

'After trying so many years, it feels particularly good to succeed in the Academy's call, and with excellent evaluations. A big thank you belongs to the main leader of the consortium, Tuomas Savolainen, and the entire team for putting together such an application combining two sciences’, Markku Poutanen rejoices.

At the Aalto University radio observatory at Metsähovi in Kirkkonummi, both astronomical and geodetic VLBI measurements are performed regularly together with international detection networks. The Finnish Geospatial Research Institute will receive a radio telescope of their own intended solely for geodetic measurements at Metsähovi.

From the call of autumn 2017, the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering selected 70 new Academy projects to be funded. Projects of the Academy of Finland receive approx. 39.5 million euros of funding mainly for research projects of a duration of four years. Funding was granted to 15 per cent of the applications.

More information

Head of Department, Professor Juha Hyyppä, juha.coelasr@gmail.com
Head of Department, Professor Markku Poutanen, markku.poutanen@nls.fi

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