A collaboration between the Port Authority of New South Wales and marine technology company Acoustic Imaging has tested new positioning technology able to pinpoint positions of objects such as cars or ships to within half a metre.

Positioning systems use technology that determines the position and orientation of an object in a given space. The technology is used in everything, from Google maps and GPOS systems in cars to advanced systems that provide navigation and location services for aircraft and shipping.

In January 2017, the Australian Government announced a $12 million two-year program to improve positioning technology in Australia by trailing a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) which uses both space-based and ground-based systems to improve accuracy.

For the first time in the world, second-generation SBAS signals were transmitted and trialled in an event held in March 2018 at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal. This new technology was demonstrated in equipment used by Port Authority’s marine pilots as they helped berth one of the world’s largest passenger cruise ships, Ovation of the Seas.

Acoustic Imaging is incorporating SBAS technology into Port Authority’s marine pilots’ portable navigation systems to help them provide more accurate navigational assistance as they bring large ships into Sydney Harbour.

Australia currently relies on the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) of other countries, for example GPS. These international systems typically give Australians positioning accuracy of five to 10 metres.

The SBAS trial is Australia’s first exploratory step to joining countries such as the United States, Europe, China, Russia, India and Japan, which are already using the first generation SBAS technology on a daily basis.

On behalf of the Australian Government, Geoscience Australia is working with more than 30 organisations and businesses from 10 industry sectors to test the economic and social benefits of improved positioning technology.

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