Sat nav systems get super-accurate

The two-year SBAS trial is being funded with $12 million from the Australian Government and a further $2 million from the New Zealand Government

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has revealed details of a New Zealand trial of the satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) — which is intended to improve the accuracy of GPS — that it is funding jointly with the Australian Government. Meanwhile a commercial system that originated in New Zealand claims to already offer much higher levels of accuracy than GPS.

LINZ’s chief geodesist Graeme Blick said many industries relied on accurate GPS and the trial would investigate whether SBAS could be useful to them.

"The first project is already underway with Christchurch-based location data intelligence consultancy, Orbica partnered with Reveal Infrastructure. Orbica are working to test the use of SBAS for locating underground assets,” Blick said.

"Mapping underground assets, such as water pipes and cables is a critical job, yet it’s very costly for the construction industry. Knowing where they are located reduces the chances of damage when digging in the area and can help with maintenance.

The two-year SBAS trial is being funded with $12 million from the Australian Government and a further $2 million from the New Zealand Government. It is being managed by Geoscience Australia and Land Information New Zealand, in partnership with the global technology companies GMV, Inmarsat and Lockheed Martin.

The Australian Government announced the first Australian trial, in Rockhampton earlier in November.

Meanwhile global company Trimble is already offering a system, Trimble Catalyst, claimed to offer centimetre level accuracy from a smartphone app and an external antenna that it says “grew from the water cooler talk of a few engineers in New Zealand to a global collaboration of Trimble's teams from Munich to Chennai to Colorado.”

Trimble Catalyst won the Supreme Excellence category at the 2017 NZ Spatial Excellence Awards early in November.  According to Trimble, “It is opening the door to a new generation of applications. And it's giving users a chance to do a lot more with a lot more accurate information.”

The award judges said:  “Out of all the entries, this promises to have the most impact. It stood out for its immense potential for delivering survey accurate measurement solutions using widely available mobile means - its professional and public reach, therefore, cannot be underestimated.”

The key to Catalyst, according to Trimble, is the enormous processing power now available in smartphones. This is now sufficient to compute an accurate position using data from multiple communications satellite systems – a capability that previously required dedicated receivers with function specific silicon chips.

Catalyst is available on a monthly subscription fee that varies according to the accuracy required. There are four options: one metre, 30-75cms, 10cms, and 1-2cms.

All services come with the caveat that these accuracy levels can be achieve only in optimal conditions. Also the two highest accuracy services require access to an external Trimble VRS Now correction service, which is available only in very limited areas of New Zealand.



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