Australia to conduct SBAS trial

A graphical illustration of Australia's national positioning infrastructure. (Geoscience Australia)

Lockheed Martin, GMV and Inmarsat are to participate in a Geoscience Australia-led project that aims to improve the accuracy, integrity and availability of basic Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals, such as those currently provided by the Global Positioning System (GPS).

In January, the Commonwealth announced it would invest $12 million for a two-year project to trial a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS), which uses space-based and ground-based aids to support GNSS.

Geoscience Australia said the tests would evaluate the effectiveness and application in SBAS across nine industries – agriculture, aviation, construction, maritime, mining, rail, road, spatial, and utilities.

Currently, SBAS is operating in the United States and Europe.

“Highly accurate positioning technologies are already available in Australia, but they are expensive and only available in specific areas and to niche markets,” then Geoscience Australia acting chief executive James Johnson said in a statement on January 17.

“Research has shown that the wide-spread adoption of improved positioning technology has the potential to generate upwards of $73 billion of value to Australia by 2030.”

Spanish company GMV will install an SBAS testbed master station, which will collect data from Geoscience Australia-operated reference stations and generate augmentation messages.

That data will be sent via a Lockheed Martin uplink antenna at Uralla, New South Wales, to a geostationary earth orbit satellite owned by Inmarsat.

“This satellite rebroadcasts the augmentation messages containing corrections and integrity data to the end users. The whole process takes less than six seconds,” Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company director for international strategy and business development Rod Drury said in a statement.

In February, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said New Zealand would contribute another $2 million towards the trial.

“The two-year project will test SBAS technology that has the potential to improve positioning accuracy in the region to less than five centimetres. Currently, positioning in Australasia is usually accurate to five to 10 metres,” Chester said in a statement on February 17.

“Not only do we use positioning technology everyday through apps like Google Maps but it is essential to all four transport sectors—aviation, maritime, rail, and road.

“Improving positioning technology has the potential to open up a whole range of new opportunities for transport sectors, including building on technological developments in maritime navigation and automated train management systems to a future that includes driverless and connected cars.”

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), the New Zealand Transport Agency, the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and the New Zealand Ministry of Transport would participate in the trials, Chester said.

Applications from specific industries to join the trial would open in March.

Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand Chief Executive Vince Di Pietro said: “We are excited to have an opportunity to work with Geoscience Australia and Australian industry to demonstrate the best possible GNSS performance and proud that Australia will be leading the way to enhance space-based navigation and industry safety.”

Regional Aviation Association of Australia chief executive Mike Higgins noted the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had accepted SBAS as one of the three fundamental augmentation technologies for GNSS.

“Many other states have now deployed or are deploying SBAS around the world. While aviation provided the primary impetus for SBAS development, that industry is now a minor user of the system and its advantages are now recognised across an expanding user base,” Higgins wrote in the November 2016 edition of Australian Aviation.

Higgins wrote that WAAS, or the wide area augmentation system, which uses SBAS technology, was first deployed in the US in July 2003 to overcome the limitations of GPS and now provides some 4,000 runway approaches across the US, Canada and Mexico.

“It has become the primary Category I landing guidance system in the US replacing ILS, allowing localiser performance with vertical guidance – LPV – approaches down to 250 or 200ft minima.”

An infographic on SBAS. (Lockheed Martin)