Government announces ‘world first’ satellite positioning system


Australia will be the first country in the world to use new GPS technology that will be almost a hundred times more accurate than the existing system.

The new system will enable a range of new applications, such as precision farming. The Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) trial is being managed by Geoscience Australia in partnership with technology companies GMV, Inmarsat and Lockheed Martin.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI) is managing the industry projects being trialled as part of the project. It received 86 applications to participate in the trial.

More than 30 projects were selected. The CRCSI will evaluate and report on the benefits and applications relevant to their business and sector, will range across 10 industry sectors including agriculture, aviation, construction, consumer, maritime, rail, road, resources, spatial and utilities.

The trial was launched in Rockhampton by Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan, back in the ministry after his citizenship scare. It is funded by $12 million from the Australian Government and $2 million from the New Zealand Government.

One of the first trials is by Central Queensland University, which will test how SBAS can be used by cattle and sheep farmers to lower costs and improve production. The project is testing the construction of ‘virtual fencing’ for strip grazing, and looking at how the precise tracking of livestock can be used for early disease detection and more efficient breeding programs.

Current GPS (Global Positioning System) can only track to within 5 to 10 metres. SBAS improves this to less than 10 centimetres.

“One of the projects will be examining the potential of ‘fenceless farming’ for strip grazing. Another will look at how crop health can be improved through more precise irrigation, fertiliser use and pest control,” said Mr Canavan.

“The new technologies basically augment and correct the positioning signals already transmitted to Australia by constellations of international satellites like the US GPS.

The increase in accuracy comes from triangulating three separate signals, which will be uplinked to a geostationary communications satellite out of Lockheed Martin’s station at Uralla, near Armidale in northern NSW.

In September Lockheed Martin switched on a second generation SBAS-2 at Uralla. Australia is the first country in the world to trial Precise Point Positioning (PPP) corrections integrated into an SBAS service.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester, who was also on hand for the launch, said improving positioning technology also has the potential to provide safety, efficiency, capacity and environmental benefits for all transport sectors.

“Satellite-based technology is already used significantly in the aviation and maritime industries. SBAS provides opportunities to increase the safe and productive use of this technology. Automated vehicle and train management systems also provide exciting opportunities for road and rail users in the future.”

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