Sub-millimetre accuracy for global positioning


A new antenna calibration facility installed at Geoscience Australia will significantly improve the accuracy of satellite positioning technologies that underpin a range of industrial and research applications.

The state-of-the-art Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) robotic antenna calibration facility, consisting of two outdoor robots, is one of only three of its kind in the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. It will increase satellite positioning precision to less than one millimetre.

The facility was officially opened by the Minister for Science and Research Senator Don Farrell at Geoscience Australia's Canberra headquarters on 20 May, 2013.

"This calibration facility will improve the accuracy of the national GNSS network, and will form an important component of the National Positioning Infrastructure announced in the recently-released Australia's Satellite Utilisation Policy," Senator Farrell said at the opening.

The $1 million facility will enhance some of the leading-edge geospatial capabilities already available to Australian researchers. It will be used to calibrate 200 GNSS antennae acquired as part of the AuScope Australian Geophysical Observing System (AGOS). AuScope is a collaboration that brings together the CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, state government agencies and 11 universities, to transform understanding of the structure and evolution of the Australian continent.

Geoscience Australia Geodesy researcher Dr John Dawson said the system will allow geoscientists to monitor changes in the surface of the continent and support an improved understanding of processes which deform the Earth, including subsidence caused by activities such as groundwater and coal seam gas extraction.

"The data will ensure better long-term management of activities and services associated with Australia's future energy needs, including in energy-rich sedimentary basins and their emerging geophysical issues," Dr Dawson said.

As well as supporting development of the resources industry, this calibration facility will also help to address the increasing demand for greater positioning accuracy in scientific investigations such as earthquake hazard mapping, monitoring the effects of climate change and tracking environmental variations over time.

By improving the accuracy of the national GNSS network, the system will improve the accuracy in hand-held devices and smart phones that rely on GPS, as well as scientific and industrial applications in positioning for transport systems, mining, engineering, construction and land survey activities.