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Going beyond the skies with GAGAN

GAGAN is the acronym for India’s GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation
A.S. Ganeshan, Project Director of GAGAN,
a project of the Indian
Space Research Organisation, explains how the system is doing more than
just improving air navigation services in the country


A.S. Ganeshan

Project Director of GAGAN,

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

Is satnav system GAGAN fully operational now?

Yes, we have two satellites, GSAT-8 and GSAT-10, carrying the GAGAN payload and augmenting the performance of GPS signals received over Indian airspace. And since even a single satellite carrying the navigation payload or augmented payload is enough for the aviation sector, having two satellites allows us to guide an aircraft using APV1 or Approach Procedures with Vertical guidance. GAGAN is capable of providing 1.5-meter accuracy in the horizontal plane and 2.5-meter in the vertical. This would allow Airport Authority of India [AAI] to pack many aircrafts one behind the other. And having a crow’s flight would not just save fuel and time, it would also save the environment from unnecessary carbon emissions.

Today we have instrument landing system or ILS in majority of airports which supports the landing requirements. These will be replaced by GAGAN. Also, there is a talk on about the greenfield airports, under which small cities and districts of India will have airports. For all of them you need not have very good landing facility, and maintenance of all these things are time consuming and expensive. All of this can be simplified with just a GAGAN receiver on board and a flight management system equipped on aircraft.

How is GAGAN being used in non-aviation sectors?

ISRO is working closely with the Indian Railways to leverage GAGAN beyond the aviation sector. A ‘hooting’ system is being developed to be installed at unmanned railway crossing. It would warn the people about the arrival of a train. This would happen in collaboration with ISRO’s online geoportal, Bhuvan, which documents a detailed map of India.

We are also developing anti-collision devices in the Konkan valley. We can put a unique ID for each railway line and if a train is coming on that particular track, relative positions can be transferred to a central information hub to ensure that two trains don’t collide. We can also install a GAGAN receiver on a goods train to locate its location. GAGAN has the ability to transform the Railways into an intelligent transportation system. If you know the position of your wagons, you can easily divert them according to your needs. In Chennai, we have implemented a paperless ticketing system. There is an app which uses GAGAN. It automatically deducts money when you board a train, so you don’t have to stand in a queue to get a paper ticket. And it should be noted that apart from anti-collision devices and monitoring the unmanned crossings, GAGAN can also be used for the alignment of the railways. In case of heavy rains, railway tracks get disturbed. All this can be managed with the help of GAGAN receivers.

We are also in touch with National Highway Authority of India about how they can benefit from GAGAN. The Ministry of Environment and Forests is using GAGAN to identify wildfires in the forest areas.

There is a great discussion on about developing smart cities in India. A smart city must have a good transportation system and position information becomes fundamental here. So satellite-based augmentation system like GAGAN as well as the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System [IRNSS] will play a very critical role in development of smart cities in the country.

Do you think GAGAN can replace GPS?

The United States evolved GPS as a military program two decades ago. GAGAN is only two years old. But, keeping that comparison aside, even today, the utility of GPS as a navigation service is not fully utilized. So, we are doing relatively well. If we were to form a joint working group for GAGAN, we will get much ahead of others in no time. And as far as replacing GPS is concerned, remember that GAGAN is GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation. It is an augmentation of the GPS. And since GPS may not be able to meet the accuracy requirements that GAGAN can provide, we want to get the message across that replace GPS receivers with GAGAN receivers.

GAGAN is already there on mobile devices with high-end receivers. It can be used on your mobile. It is available for everyone now.

How are you collaborating with the private sector?

Collaboration with private players is one of our main objectives. We are service providers. GAGAN will have a rich potential for app developers, platform developers and receivers, particularly in the navigation sector. If all the stakeholders come on one platform, there is a lot of potential for private companies to bring home the benefits to the common man.