News SouthPAN upgrade delivers improved positioning services to users

Published:6 May 2024

Geoscience Australia’s Branch Head for Position Australia Dr Martine Woolf in front of SouthPAN’s first dedicated satellite dish in Uralla NSW

Geoscience Australia’s satellite-based augmentation system, SouthPAN, has reached a new milestone, elevating services to a reliable 99.5% accurate service availability, up from 95% previously. The new level of reliability is a commitment that services will be available 99.5% of the time, supporting a wide range of industries such as agriculture, transportation and spatial sciences.

The Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SouthPAN) is a joint initiative between Geoscience Australia and Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand and offers precise positioning at sub-metre accuracy, and in some cases, as little as 10 centimetres.

This milestone has been achieved through ongoing infrastructure improvements, including the opening of the new uplink processing centre in Uralla in December 2023.

Geoscience Australia’s Branch Head for Position Australia Dr Martine Woolf said the improvements are a significant step towards achieving full operational services, including safety of life certification for aviation in 2028.

“SouthPAN’s early Open Services have been available for well over a year and are already being accessed by a diverse range of industries,” Dr Woolf said.

“With these upgrades, users have an additional level of reliability with a guarantee that services will be available 99.5% of the time. We are continuously upgrading the system and are looking to have two satellites broadcasting services to users in future. This will provide further resilience in our precise positioning capabilities.”

Dr Woolf said for the first time, certain applications can access SouthPAN through the Internet if required.

“Users have been accessing SouthPAN services direct from the satellite through a range of compatible devices. As a result of the upgrades there is an opportunity for stakeholders to access and consume the data through the Internet as well.

“Tech companies can integrate this ability into their devices, giving users access to the data without the specialised GNSS software.

“There is potential for SouthPAN’s services to be used in ways we haven’t yet seen or imagined. The possibilities for technologies that are applicable to wearable devices or mobile phones in particular are endless.”

SouthPAN works by comparing satellite data against precisely measured positions to identify and correct discrepancies. These corrections are sent to geostationary satellites and then broadcast to users throughout Australia and New Zealand. The economic benefits for Australia and New Zealand from SouthPAN are expected to be $7.6 billion over 30 years.

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