17 october 2008

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting on expanding the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS)

The meeting focused on the development of the GLONASS navigation satellite system.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. 

Let us discuss the work on the GLONASS programme: what we have achieved, what problems we are facing, and what new decisions have been made.

Sergei Ivanov: I should probably go first as I am in charge of this high-priority project. There have been some positive changes in the entire GLONASS project. I am not talking about the satellite cluster. We have already reported to you that three new spacecraft were recently orbited. There are plans to launch three more satellites before the year is out. After that, we can say that GLONASS signals will be received all over Russia round the clock.

Vladimir Putin: How many satellites will we have then, 21?

Sergei Ivanov: Yes, that's right. 21. They cover the whole of Russia, whereas we need 24 operational satellites for global coverage. But we want to have some reserve potential - up to 30 satellites in orbit, or maybe 26 satellites in orbit and another 3-4 reserve spacecraft on Earth. Nevertheless, 24 operational satellites can cover the entire world. This is guaranteed.

Vladimir Putin: When are we going to launch three new satellites? There will be 21 spacecraft in orbit by late 2008.

Yury Urlichich: We will also launch two more spacecraft next year.

Vladimir Putin: Two?

Sergei Ivanov: Two rockets with three satellites each.

Vladimir Putin: Oh, two, with three each.

Sergei Ivanov: Yes, this means each rocket will carry three satellites.

Vladimir Putin: Then we will have 27 spacecraft in orbit.

Sergei Ivanov: That's right. But considering the number of old spacecraft that need to be replaced, we are guaranteed to have 24 satellites.

Vladimir Putin: Twenty-four satellites will be in orbit? That's good. Will this happen in late 2009?

Sergei Ivanov: Yes, late next year. Now to the main issue: We do not see any problems in the field of spacecraft production. You will soon see this for yourself when you visit Krasnoyarsk. The main problem is with production of competitive commercial GLONASS receivers.

Right now, the civilian sector has about 20,000 operational GLONASS receivers. In addition, this year the Defence Ministry bought nearly 15,000 man-portable receivers and combat-equipment receivers that can be installed in infantry fighting vehicles, tanks, airplanes, etc.

Of the whole number of 20,000 civilian receivers, about 10,000 are installed aboard airplanes, ships and trains, and another 10,000 are either privately owned or belong to municipal and regional authorities. I know that many regional leaders are installing such equipment in municipal transport, in road-maintenance vehicles and buses. I have seen this for myself in Sochi, Tatarstan and in the Krasnoyarsk Territory.

Vladimir Putin: In ambulances, too.

Sergei Ivanov: That's right. Many Governors have realised the advantages of GLONASS, which is making the economy far more cost-effective and transparent.

Vladimir Putin: The system tracks vehicles and helps find out where they are, whether they are on their route or not, or doing some other work.

Sergei Ivanov: Yes, exactly, and if the drivers are doing any work on the side, dispatchers effectively register that. Moreover, the system has exposed many instances when drivers drain their fuel tanks.

Vladimir Putin: The system can also be used for protecting bioresources.

Sergei Ivanov: Yes, and perhaps, chief designer, Mr Urlichich, will now answer some of the technical questions.

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead, Mr Urlichich.

Yury Urlichich: Our satellites are used today in practically every sphere of life. One might say the whole world is moving in this direction. This technique cuts the time needed, say, for doing land surveys by three times, and saves travel time by choosing an optimal route by 20%. It also improves the quality of work. That is to say, we have safety, and a number of attendant services which allow us to feel more comfortable and confident in doing any job, primarily in areas related to transport.

In addition, the GLONASS system helps to identify the position not only of facilities used in the national economy, but also of various biological species. We are working on that too. Although there are similar systems allowing us to work with wild animals. Back in the 1990s, we experimented with another grouping, COSPAS-SARSAT, which is also being developed in our country...

Vladimir Putin: Do you mean the experiment with tigers in the Far East?

Yury Urlichich: Yes, a combination of different space engineering solutions benefits both the environment and other spheres. And of course, the transportation of very dangerous or valuable cargoes must obey the same laws which we spoke about.

There are also other applications. Application in cars is something all of us understand. It can also be used in personal cars. Now personal navigation systems are coming into use, for example for hunters and mushroom pickers. The first mass produced navigators will go on sale this year. Last year you saw navigation systems for cars, which are sold in many shops and are widely available, now you will also see a personal navigator.

The next stage will deal with a special application, say, for animals. Today we can say that this problem has been solved by Russian firms. That is to say, a Russian firm has manufactured the GLONASS GPS module, as well as the device itself. All the software which the device requires for communicating with the host communicator or personal computer through the Internet has also been developed in Russia. Such things are indicative of the technological standards of a company. On order from our institute, the Russian Research Institute of Space Instrument Building, M2M-Telematika has come up with such a system.

Sergei Ivanov: Yevgeny Belyanko is the head of this company. It is a private enterprise, which specialises in microelectronics.

Yury Urlichich: Currently, our achievements in this field are comparable to the work being done in the West. We have seen 16 samples of equipment that has been designed abroad. I have to say, our product is superior in a number of parameters.

The technology will be used primarily for motor transport, as well as for the transportation of various high-danger or high-value cargoes, and in the housing and utilities infrastructure.

Vladimir Putin: Where exactly can it be used in the housing and utilities infrastructure?

Yevgeny Belyanko: For real-time monitoring of social transport, refuse disposal lorries, for everything that moves and needs to be followed, to keep control centres informed. The technology will as well be useful for security purposes, as each system is fitted with an alarm button, a voice communication channel and sensors, ensuring full control over the vehicle.

Vladimir Putin: You also mentioned animals?

Yury Urlichich: Yes, the technology could be used for equipping dogs searching for people buried in the rubble. We are currently collaborating with the Emergencies Ministry on this issue.

Vladimir Putin: Can I use it with my dog?

Yury Urlichich: Yes, you can.

Sergei Ivanov: I have to admit, I got the time frame all wrong, I had promised to bring a dog-collar for Connie this summer. To be fair, it was ready by that time, we just had no opportunity to meet with you and Connie. The device is ready and we can put it to the test.

Vladimir Putin: Shall we try it out?

Sergei Ivanov: All right, let us do it.

Yevgeny Belyanko: It weighs 170 grams.

Vladimir Putin: All right, Connie, come over here, there's a present for you.

Yury Urlichich: Here we have the electronic parts. This is a GLONASS/GPS module. It will be inside. This chip is here. The accumulator battery accounts for the remaining weight. The know-how is that ...

Sergei Ivanov: It's that we are the only ones who have managed to make it. No country in the world has the same technology. When the dog is motionless, let's say, lying in a puddle somewhere in the forest.

Vladimir Putin: Well, my dog's not a pig, she doesn't lie down in puddles.

Sergei Ivanov: Well, in the forest. The battery turns off, saving energy.

Yevgeny Belyanko: A movement-detecting sensor turns the navigation system off to save energy, if the dog remains in the same spot.

Vladimir Putin: And what is this?

Yevgeny Belyanko: It's for monitoring animals with various devices. Here's a record of a short walk on a lawn in front of the house.

Vladimir Putin: Shall we put this on her? (putting the dog-collar round Connie's neck).

Sergei Ivanov: She looks sad. Free life is over.

Vladimir Putin: (to Connie) Do you like it? She likes it. She's wagging her tail, that means she likes it.

Yevgeny Belyanko: Now we need to let her walk around somewhere.