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Credit: Geoscience Australia

Credit: Geoscience Australia

Geoscience Australia conducts aviation trial on satellite-based augmentation system

According to a recent press release, a new satellite positioning technology currently being trialled by Geoscience Australia to improve aviation safety and efficiency. The aviation trial is one of 25 currently being run across the country.

The Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) project is led by Airservices Australia on behalf of the aviation industry. Under the project, Airservices Australia is fitting SBAS technology into aircraft and testing it across regional Australia.

SBAS utilises space-based and ground-based infrastructure to improve the accuracy, integrity and availability of basic Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals, such as those currently provided by the Global Positioning System (GPS). SBAS already developed internationally include WAAS in the United States and EGNOS in Europe.

Airservices Australia will receive up to A$310 000 in funding from the Australian and New Zealand governments to trial the technology.

The aviation component of the trial will test two technologies: the first and second generation SBAS. SBAS technology provides accurate guidance for landing procedures at regional aerodromes where ground infrastructure may not be as advanced as that used at larger airports.

An operational SBAS would improve safety, by guiding pilots with greater accuracy, especially those flying into regional aerodromes operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

Geoscience Australia's SBAS project manager Dr John Dawson explained that SBAS-assisted aircraft approaches are eight times safer than those that use ground-based navigation aids.

"This could mean a pilot can now attempt a landing without visuals down to 200 feet," he said

According to Dr Dawson, the safety and efficiency benefits this technology provides will result in fewer flights being cancelled or diverted, and can also reduce the number of landing attempts flights may need to make during poor weather.

This will be of particular benefit to services like the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which provides emergency medical transport and primary health care to rural and remote Australia. Such operation often needs to undertake landings in varying weather conditions and at small, remote airfields and other locations where infrastructure and technology is limited.

The broader two-year SBAS trial program includes projects in the agriculture, construction, consumer and utilities, resources, spatial and transport industries. It is being funded with A$12 million from the Australian Government and a further A$2 million from the New Zealand Government.

As reported earlier, Geoscience Australia is working with the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information on a test-bed project for SBAS. The project is funded through the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Through this project, Australia joins USA, Europe, Russia, India and Japan, as countries who have invested in infrastructure that delivers satellite-based corrections via an SBAS.

SBAS is expected to overcome the current gaps in mobile and radio communications and can improve positioning accuracy in Australia to less than 5 centimetres from the current accuracy of 5 to 10 metres.

In November last year, the Australian Government launched the world’s first national trial for the integration of Precise Point Positioning corrections into a SBAS service The SBAS trial is being managed by Geoscience Australia in partnership with the global technology companies GMV, Inmarsat and Lockheed Martin.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan, Geoscience Australia CEO James Johnson, and Airservices Australia CEO Jason Harfield, recently hosted an event at Canberra International Airport to demonstrate the technology to representatives from the aviation industry and media.

Aircraft used for the demonstration included the Toll Air Ambulance which is used for patient rescue, retrieval and treatment in communities in New South Wales and the ACT, and a plane used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

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