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Space technology aids regional aviation

17 April 2018

Joint media release with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Michael Mccormack MP.

The Australian Government is delivering more accurate GPS systems for aeroplanes, which will make regional aviation safer and more efficient.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the technology is being trialled on specially fitted out aircraft under the Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) for the Australasian region, which is being funded with $12 million from the Australian Government and a further $2 million from the New Zealand Government.

“Having a complete understanding of how the aviation industry sector can fully benefit from SBAS technology is crucial to the success of this trial,” Mr McCormack said.

“Highly accurate and reliable satellite positioning technology has the potential to improve the safety and efficiency of services vital to regional Australia, such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service and regional airlines.

“Research tells us that SBAS-assisted aircraft approaches are eight times safer than approaches that use ground-based navigation aids.

“This technology has the potential to revolutionise air transport in remote and regional areas, providing pilots with accurate vertical guidance for landing procedures and improved situation awareness anywhere across Australia.

“It will also mean fewer cancelled or diverted flights, by giving pilots access to better aircraft positioning than what is available today.”

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said the project, coordinated by Airservices Australia, was just one of 28 projects from across 10 industry sectors being conducted as part of the trial.

“The sky is literally the limit for the potential benefits of this technology,” Senator Canavan said.

“We rely on GPS technology for everything from using Google maps on our phones, through to keeping taxis, truckies and pilots on time.

“But at the moment this technology is not as precise as it needs to be for more advanced uses. Right now, it’s accurate to within 5-10 metres only.  The trial is looking at more precise technologies to improve accuracy to ten centimetres, which has both safety and productivity benefits.

“More precise satellite positioning technology has particularly important applications in regional aviation for remote airports, but it's also important for road and rail transport and for the agriculture and mining sectors

“The Australian Government's trial is already delivering benefits.  When we turned on a first generation SBAS signal in June 2017 at Lockheed Martin’s uplink station in Uralla, New South Wales, for the first time ever, improved GPS positioning was available across the entire continent.

“This is a solid investment in Australia’s future. Research has shown that the wide-spread adoption of improved positioning technology has the potential to generate upwards of $73 billion of value to Australia by 2030.”

The trial of a SBAS for the Australasian region is being led by Geoscience Australia in partnership with Land Information New Zealand and the global technology companies GMV, Inmarsat and Lockheed Martin. The Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information is managing all industry projects.

For more information visit: www.ga.gov.au/sbas

Media contact:
Deputy Prime Minister’s office: 02 6277 7520
Minister Canavan's office: 02 6277 7180