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Satellite tech trialled in West Africa could benefit regional Australia

written by Adam Thorn | February 2, 2021

A pioneering trial of a new satellite navigation system in Togo, West Africa, has the potential to make landing in remote airports in regional Australia much safer.

Thales Alenia Space – a joint venture between Thales and Leonardo – was among a number of organisations to recently test out a new Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) in five flights over Lomé International Airport.

An SBAS uses both space and ground-based infrastructure to improve the accuracy of basic GPS.

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“The goal of the flight demos was to show, in real configuration, the efficiency of the technology developed in the frame of the early open service as part of the SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean program, which pursues the autonomous provision of SBAS services over the continent, to augment the performances of the satellite navigation constellations GPS and Galileo,” the business said in a statement.

“The tests were carried out by means of the ASECNA calibration aircraft (ATR42-300), which has been equipped for the occasion by Pildo Labs with specific sensors and embarked VIPs and pilots in five rotations over Lomé Airport.

“The aim of the experiment was to demonstrate the ability of the system to allow landings on the two ends of the runway without the deployment of local ground infrastructure and with a performance level close to the use of Instrument Landing Systems (ILS).”

Thales said these advancements could have huge benefits for regional Australia and New Zealand, where many small airports are unable to afford ground-based navigation aids such as an ILS.

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The increased safety and lower operations costs provided by ‘SBAS Safety of Life Service’ could also help decrease the environmental impact of air traffic by leading to lower aircraft fuel consumption, and reducing noise levels for people living near airports.

The other businesses involved are the Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar, ASECNA and the Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd, NIGCOMSAT.

“Our longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS1 SBAS in Europe and KASS SBAS in Korea combined with our new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies makes Thales Alenia Space the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently. We hope these series of demos will help to accelerate SBAS adoption in aviation in Africa,” said Thales Alenia Space’s VP of navigation business, Benoit Broudy.

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