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Australia: Budget pledges $225m for enhanced positioning infrastructure

Budget pledges $225m for enhanced positioning infrastructure Although all the lead-up discussions focused on the establishment of a national space agency, the big news from the 2018 Federal Budget was the allocation of $225m over four years to dramatically enhance the country’s positioning data via a Satellite-Based Augmentation System and National Positioning Infrastructure Capability.

The allocation, announced by Jobs & Innovation Minister Michaelia Cash and Resources Minister Matt Canavan, represents a substantial augmentation in its own right to the responsible agency, Geosciences Australia, which was funded to the tune of about $200m annually prior. Adding detail to the government’s announcement the day after, Geosciences Australia CEO Dr James Johnson said “Over the next four years, we will invest $224.9 million to make reliable positioning data accurate to 10 centimetres available in every corner of Australia. Areas with mobile coverage will have access to positioning data accurate to 3 centimetres.”

GPS currently provides large parts of Australia with positioning accuracies of 5 to 10 metres. “Improving Australia's positioning capability is not just about improving location services on a smartphone. It's about helping farmers reduce costs and waste, enabling the Royal Flying Doctor Service to land in more locations than ever before, making it easy to dock a cruise ship in a busy port like Sydney Harbour, and improving safety on construction and mining sites. These are just a handful of the benefits we already know about,” Dr Johnson said.

The resourcing builds on a two year trial of a satellite-based augmentation system funded by $12 million from the Australian Government and $2 million from New Zealand Government consisting of 28 projects from across 10 different industry sectors.

“Of the $224.9 million, $160.9 million will be used to fund a SBAS for Australia. The remaining $64 million will be used to establish a national ground station network, improve coordination across government and the private sector, and ensure Australian industry has access to world-leading software tools for positioning,” Dr Johnson said.

The government also provided additional funding for satellite imaging. “Following the $15.3 million announced in Budget 2017-18, Digital Earth Australia (DEA) has now been fully funded with an additional $36.9 million over the next four years.

The ongoing funding will ensure DEA provides the high-quality data and tools required for policy and investment decision-making, and enables businesses to develop applications and services for sectors across the entire Australian economy,” Dr Johnson said. “DEA is world-class digital infrastructure that gives everyone, from government organisations to business, town planers to farmers, free access to thirty years of satellite imagery of the Australian continent. The capabilities DEA provides will help to increase business efficiency, bolster profits and create jobs,” he added. Grahame Lynch, Commsday