National Positioning Infrastructure Capability

Overview

Positioning technology through Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) has revolutionised our ability to access positioning information at the touch of a button. From smartphones to autonomous vehicles, positioning delivers value to users through increased productivity, safety and innovation. The National Positioning Infrastructure (NPI) Capability led by Geoscience Australia will maximise this value to the nation by enabling exceptional accuracy and reliability from a new generation of positioning systems.

Figure 1. Satellite positioning services such as GPS provide accuracy to within 5 metres which is suitable for some, but not all applications.

Figure 1. Satellite positioning services such as GPS provide accuracy to within 5 metres which is suitable for some, but not all applications.

Background

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology enables land, sea and airborne users to determine their three dimensional position, velocity and time, twenty four hours a day in all weather conditions and anywhere in the world. GNSS is based on several jurisdictional satellite positioning systems including the United States' GPS, Russia's GLONASS, Japan's Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), the European Union's Galileo, China's Beidou and the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).

Australia is one of few countries that can receive positioning signals from all six systems as they come online.

Positioning information is now an integral part of society with applications ranging from mapping and surveying to international air traffic management, car navigation, control of heavy machinery, and a host of other civil, commercial and scientific applications. GNSS satellites allow global positioning to within 5-10 metres accuracy, but with local ground infrastructure accuracy is improved to better than 5 centimetres. Precise positioning at this level opens a range of new and innovative applications, including major productivity improvements for agriculture, mining, engineering, logistics, transportation and location-based services (Figure 2). The gross benefits of precise positioning to the agriculture, mining and construction sectors alone in 2008 were estimated to be between $800 million and $1.5 billion per annum (Allen Consulting, 2008).

Given the productivity benefits that derive from greater precision, thousands of ground stations have been installed in parts of Australia by private industry and federal, state, territory and local governments. Despite this investment, there is no coherent national network due to a lack of policy coordination and industry fragmentation. Large coverage gaps remain in regional and remote communities, while duplication and inconsistent service standards impact others. National precise positioning has been prohibitively costly using existing technology alone.

As one of few countries in the world with high visibility to each system, Australia stands to benefit significantly through early adoption and innovative capability development. Investing strategically in the location and capability of ground infrastructure will significantly reduce national barriers to precise positioning. Delivery of services via satellite communications will expand these benefits across Australia and New Zealand.

Cumulative benefits to the agriculture, mining and construction sectors alone by 2030 are projected to range between $32 billion and $58 billion if Australia had a standardised (NPI) Capability (Allen Consulting, 2008)

Figure 2. The cumulative distribution of global core revenue (value of GNSS chipsets) projected by the European GNSS Agency (GSA, 2015) for the period 2013 - 2023.

Figure 2. The cumulative distribution of global core revenue (value of GNSS chipsets) projected by the European GNSS Agency (GSA, 2015) for the period 2013 - 2023.

National Coordination

National coordination across government and industry is vital to maximising value from positioning investment. Geoscience Australia facilitates technical and policy coordination on a range of challenges, including data and service standards, spectrum management, GNSS capability development, multilateral cooperation and legal traceability of position. National leadership on the NPI Capability strategy and Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) more broadly is supported by the following coordination committees: 

  • The NPI Advisory Board established and chaired by Geoscience Australia provides strategic guidance on NPI capability design and implementation. Expert representatives from government, industry and research provide advice to Geoscience Australia on current and future positioning requirements across Australia and New Zealand. 
  • The Space Coordination Committee (SCC) established under Australia's Satellite Utilisation Policy is a forum for the Australian Government to coordinate and prioritise its involvement in civil space activities. The PNT Working Group chaired by Geoscience Australia is a permanent committee under the SCC, which coordinates and prioritises PNT issues of national significance, including GNSS spectrum management, multilateral coordination, NPI capability planning, Space-Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) and critical infrastructure resilience.
  • The Space Cross-Sectoral Interest Group established under the Attorney-General's Department's Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN) supports national risk planning for Australia's growing reliance on space-based assets such as GNSS. Geoscience Australia contributes PNT expertise alongside specialists from Australia's satellite communications and Earth Observations from Space (EOS) communities. Further information is available via the Attorney-General's Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN).

Implementation

The NPI Capability has a vision for instant, accurate and reliable positioning anytime and anywhere. To achieve this vision, the project requires ground capability development and satellite delivery.

Ground Capability Development

Ground capability development involves the establishment of on-ground operational infrastructure and services. It enables information from all GNSS to be tracked, verified and optimised for national precise positioning and has the following objectives:

       
  • National coordination on positioning across government (e.g. the PNT Working Group) and industry (e.g. the NPI Advisory Board and related working groups);
  • A new coordinate framework supporting next generation positioning and mapping capabilities;
  • Strategic deployment of modern GNSS ground stations, including a minimum national network of 200 stations operated by Geoscience Australia;
  • Development and implementation of open data formats that are internationally standardised;
  • An understanding of GNSS vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies, including spectrum management and non-GNSS alternatives;
  • An Australian Government commitment to international engagement on PNT;
  • A real-time GNSS analysis capability enabling independent advice by government on GNSS performance, integrity and fitness-for-purpose across Australia and New Zealand;
  • A minimum service guarantee for safety critical applications;
  • Transmission of services and data via terrestrial communications for use in open and proprietary positioning solutions.

Figure 3. The NPI Capability will establish the necessary ground infrastructure to enhance accuracy to 3-5 centimetres by utilising signals from global navigation satellites across Australia.

Satellite Delivery

Satellite delivery will overcome the current gaps in mobile and radio communications and, when combined with on-ground operational infrastructure and services, will ensure that accurate positioning information can be received by the user anytime and anywhere within Australia.

Three categories of satellite delivery are being explored for the NPI Capability to determine which is most effective for Australia. They are: next generation Space-Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS); commercial GNSS correction services; and positioning augmentation via GNSS satellites themselves.

The ground capability will influence how augmentation data can be delivered via satellite as well as via terrestrial communications. User requirements for critical positioning applications across Australia and New Zealand are informing both the ground and satellite capability requirements, including multi-sector engagement on service standards and options for service delivery.

National coverage will ultimately play a key part in securing the competitive advantages available to Australia. It will enable the fundamental data infrastructure underpinning our positioning activities to be accessible by government, industry and leading research users across the region.

Figure 4. Satellite delivery will ensure that accurate positioning information can be received by the user directly via satellites, anytime and anywhere within Australia.


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