talksatellite   Asia-Pacific    

Daily news





The Science That Will Make Self-Driving Cars A Reality For Australians

ANU researcher and InSpace Mission Specialist, Dr Simon McClusky of the Research School of Earth Sciences, is working with Geoscience Australia researchers to enhance navigation and positioning systems that will make precision robotic farming and mining possible and make self-driving cars a reality.

ANU Institute for Space Director, Prof Anna Moore, talked to Dr McClusky about his work and why it will change the lives of all Australians. 

We all use GPS on our phones, but you are working on a better system?

For the last 20 years, GPS has underpinned many of our day-to-day Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) needs. Soon a Satellite Based Augmentation Service (SBAS) will be available in Australia.

SBAS signals not only improve GPS positioning and navigation accuracy down from several metres to less than half a metre, they also provide users with information on the reliability and integrity of positioning results in real-time.

The SBAS augments GPS signals received by a user from GPS satellites with corrections computed from a global or regional ground tracking network. These corrections are typically delivered to the users GPS device via a geostationary communications satellite. While SBAS is new for the Australasian region, it has been available in other countries across North America and Europe for some time.

Does that mean we are joining a more advanced, global system?

Yes. GNSS is essentially GPS operated by other countries around the world. These navigation and positioning satellite systems are all a bit different, but collectively they make up the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). Together they create a system that gives us access to more satellites and better position and navigation in places where sky visibility is limited like urban canyons in cities. 

Right now above the Earth, more than 140 satellites are broadcasting GNSS signals. That means that GNSS devices in Australia will be able to track signals from many satellite constellations including the U.S.’s GPS, the Russian Federation’s GLONASS, the E.U.’s Galileo GNSS, China’s BeiDou GNSS, and region-based augmentation systems such as the Australian and New Zealand Space-based Augmentation System (SBAS), Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), India’s Regional Navigation Satellite System (NavIC).

How does your work at ANU help Australians?

Currently, I am working with Geoscience Australia to create the next generation of Multi-GNSS processing software. This software will not only be able to compute and deliver GPS SBAS corrections, but it will enable a range of new higher precision Multi-GNSS augmented positioning solutions for ground-based mobile communications networks and SBAS.

This next-gen software will make precise positioning in real-time more accessible across the entire Australasian region. This new augmented positioning software is essential to make precision robotic farming and mining possible and make self-driving cars a reality. Looking to the future, it can help mitigate concerns about space situational awareness and potentially be used to help guide satellites away from dangerous space debris.

SBAS will help our economy, our industries, and it will make a real difference in emergency situations where accurate location data is critical.