Inmarsat trial to boost GPS performance in the UK

engineering careers  Inmarsat trial to boost GPS performance in the UK

London based Inmarsat is looking to augment GPS performance across the UK in a new trial of UKSBAS – the UK Space-Based Augmentation System.

The trial will test out a new overlay system aimed to improve the performance of GPS signals across the country.

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The project is being run by a team from Inmarsat, Goonhilly, and GMVNSL. The aim of the project is to reduce resolution of standard sat-nav fixes from metres to centimetres allowing a whole host of high precision technologies to function better.

It was long assumed that these technologies could use the EU Galileo but since leaving European Union the UK has been blocked from using the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) safety of life (SOL) services.

Inmarsat want to create national capability from the UK to provide the same resilient positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) for the UK aviation and maritime sectors.

The new signal will be broadcast across the UK and has been coordinated with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union Space Programme Agency (EUSPA) to ensure it is now stable and won’t interfere with other projects or systems.

UKSBAS works by generating an overlay test signal to the US Global Positioning System (GPS) which increases accuracy in positioning to a few centimetres of accuracy rather than the few metres provided by standard GPS.

The works builds on a similar system to that already under evaluation in Australia and New Zealand which is supported by Inmarsat.

Rather than launching completely new satellites the system has been implemented by repurposing the SBAS transponder on Inmarsat’s I-3 F5 satellite in geostationary orbit. Goonhilly will provide the signal uplink for the system from Cornwall and software from GMVNSL, based in Nottingham, generates the necessary navigational data.

Todd McDonell, President, Global Government at Inmarsat explained that ‘the Inmarsat team is inspired by delivering solutions to new problems through technology and innovation. Repurposing a transponder on a long-serving satellite to deliver a new capability to the UK, potentially a vital and enduring one, certainly lives up to that core Inmarsat ethos. Working with our fellow British companies at Goonhilly and GMVNSL to deliver such a capability for the country is very rewarding and we look forward to reporting on the results.’

The UKSBAS signal will allow ground testing of this potential alternative system to begin and allow the company to figure out if it can develop the system into a full operational capability to support everything from airport approach and landing operations to navigating ships through narrow channels at night and in poor weather conditions.