Positioning technology revolutionised the way we fly and improves access to regional and remote Australia, and improves safety of landing approaches. Through Positioning Australia and the implementation of a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS), aviation transportation will become even safer and efficient by improving vertical guidance.

Positioning benefits for Aviation

Makes air travel safer

Aviation transportation will become safer and more efficient, with SBAS expected to reduce Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) accidents. SBAS can also be a backup system for Instrument Landing System (ILS) equipped airports in the case of outages allowing for continued airport operations.

Avoid 146 fatalities, 92 injuries and 20 aircraft losses

Improves access to regional and remote Australia

Improved satellite positioning technology allows for greater navigational accuracy when flying into rural and regional aerodromes such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service fleet. An increase in successfully completed rescue missions within remote locations will greatly benefit patients.

Increase of 1866 successfully completed medical helicopter rescue missions in remote locations

Enhances situational awareness

SBAS will provide the accuracy, integrity and availability of positioning signals needed for vertical guidance. This will improve the ability to land in a greater range of conditions such as low cloud cover and compromised visibility.

Improve vertical guidance on approach so pilots can land safely in a greater range of weather conditions

Satellite technology improving safety and efficiency in our skies

26 April 2018

Air transport in remote and regional Australia is set to be transformed by a new satellite positioning technology currently being trialled by Geoscience Australia. The aviation trial is one of 25 currently being run across the country.

Airservices Australia is leading the Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) project on behalf of the aviation industry, fitting SBAS technology into aircraft and testing it across regional Australia.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, Geoscience Australia CEO James Johnson, and Airservices Australia CEO Jason Harfield, hosted an event at Canberra International Airport on 17 April to demonstrate the technology to representatives from the aviation industry and media.

The event provided an opportunity for pilots to talk about how the technology would help Australian aviation. Aircraft present at the event included the Toll Air Ambulance, used for patient rescue, retrieval and treatment, in communities in New South Wales and the ACT, and a plane used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The aviation component of the trial will test two technologies: first and second generation SBAS. An operational SBAS would improve safety, by guiding pilots with greater accuracy, especially those flying into regional aerodromes operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

SBAS technology provides accurate guidance for landing procedures at regional aerodromes where ground infrastructure may not be as advanced as that used at larger airports.

Geoscience Australia's SBAS project manager Dr John Dawson explained that SBAS-assisted aircraft approaches are eight times safer than those that use ground-based navigation aids.

"This could mean a pilot can now attempt a landing without visuals down to 200 feet," Dr Dawson said.

"The safety and efficiency benefits this technology provides will result in fewer flights being cancelled or diverted, and can also reduce the number of landing attempts flights may need to make during poor weather."

This will be of particular benefit to services like the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which provides emergency medical transport and primary health care to rural and remote Australia, and often needs to undertake landings in varying weather conditions and at small, remote airfields and other locations where infrastructure and technology is limited.

Airservices Australia will receive up to $310 000 in funding from the Australian and New Zealand governments to trial the technology.

The broader two-year SBAS trial program includes projects in the agriculture, construction, consumer and utilities, resources, spatial and transport industries. It is being funded with $12 million from the Australian Government and a further $2 million from the New Zealand Government.

Aviation currently relies on Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals for lateral guidance, such as those provided by the Global Positioning System (GPS). While standalone GNSS supports lateral guidance it doesn’t provide appropriate levels of integrity and availability required for vertical guidance, which delivers a greater level of safety.

A Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) uses space and ground infrastructure to improve the accuracy, integrity and availability of GNSS signals needed for vertical guidance.

Benefits for aviation

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) acknowledges that straight-in approaches are 25 times safer than circling procedures, and approaches with vertical guidance are eight times safer than approaches with lateral guidance alone. SBAS will facilitate improved vertical guidance by reducing the decision altitude to as low as 250 feet. SBAS approaches will be comparable to Instrument Landing System (ILS) approaches and will satisfy the standards specified in ICAO Annex 10.

While enhancing vertical positioning of aircrafts, SBAS will also:

  • reduce the risks associated with Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT)
  • benefit regional airports that may never be equipped with ILS and mitigate against outages at airports that are
  • improve the ability to land in a greater range of conditions such as low cloud cover and compromised visibility
  • contribute to the reduction of delays, diversions and cancellations through improved position, navigation and timing (PNT).

What to expect

The Positioning program is expected to deliver an aviation Safety-of-Life certified system by 2023-24. The implementation of SBAS will include:

  • GPS-L1 SBAS (certified for Australian civil aviation)
  • Dual Frequency (L1 and L5) Multi-Constellation (DFMC) SBAS open service
  • open access Precise Point Positioning (PPP) with 10cm capability.

The DFMC service will be transmitted according to the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) DFMX standard. Once the Australian SBAS is operational, the possibility of certifying DFMC as a safety critical system will be explored. Aviation certified DFMC receivers are not anticipated to be available until 2025.

The anticipated service area for the L1 and L5 signals is expected to cover Australia and New Zealand, with the L5 signal extending to the Asia-Pacific area. The minimum expected coverage area for both signals is longitude 100° to 185°, latitude -5° to -60°.

Accessing the benefits

The Australian SBAS is currently in test mode and will not be certified as an aviation safety critical system until operational. We’re working with Australia’s aviation regulatory body and air navigation service provider to ensure that all aviation users will be capable of using the safety critical SBAS once it is operational.

The Australian SBAS is transmitted through Pseudo Random Noise Number (PRN) 122 and currently not all GNSS aviation receivers are SBAS capable, unless it complies with TSO 145/146. To access the benefits, manufacturers will need to support update requirements for receivers.