World first satellite positioning technology trial begins

The Australian Government has launched a national trial of a world first satellite positioning technology.

Minister for Resources, Matt Canavan, said the first contracts with industry had been signed as part of a two-year trial examining the economic and social benefits of a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) for the Australasian region.

CQUniversity in Rockhampton, Queensland, was one of the first industry participants to sign on.

“In coming months, further contracts are expected to be signed covering more than 30 industry-based projects across ten sectors examining real-world applications of three new satellite positioning technologies,” Mr Canavan said.

“We know that working closely with industries like agriculture is the key to understanding what Australia can gain from investing in technologies that may improve positioning accuracy from the current five to ten metres down to less than ten centimetres.”

Mr Canavan said as part of the trial, a number of the projects will look at improvements in how positioning can be used to increase production and lower costs for farmers.

For example, one of the projects will examine the potential of ‘fenceless farming’ for strip grazing, while another will look at how crop health can be improved through more precise irrigation, fertiliser use and pest control.

Mr Canavan said the new technologies basically augmented and corrected the positioning signals already transmitted to Australia by constellations of international satellites like the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS).

“All up, three signals will be uplinked to a geostationary communications satellite out of Lockheed Martin’s station at Uralla in the New England region of New South Wales.

“In September, a second generation SBAS (SBAS-2) signal was switched on. It is the first time anywhere in the world that SBAS-2 signals have been transmitted. Australia is also the first country in the world to trial Precise Point Positioning corrections integrated into a SBAS service.”

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, said improving positioning technology also had 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, however SBAS provides opportunities to increase the safe and productive use of this technology,” Mr Chester said.

“Automated vehicle and train management systems also provide exciting opportunities for road and rail users in the future.”

Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, said CQUniversity’s project would receive up to $180,000 in funding from the Australian and New Zealand Governments, with the project partners contributing an additional $105,000.

“You may start seeing cattle and sheep with special collars in Rockhampton and Longreach.

“The CQUniversity-led 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.

“It all sounds a bit technical but what we’re really talking about is potentially increasing production and lowering costs for farmers.”

The SBAS trial is being managed by Geoscience Australia in partnership with the global technology companies GMV, Inmarsat and Lockheed Martin.

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