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Australia allocates funds for National Positioning Infrastructure, Digital Earth Australia and SBAS in the federal budget

Australia:  In the 2018 Australian Federal Budget, $64.0 million over four years from 2018-19 and $11.7 million in ongoing funding from 2022-23 will be allocated for the National Positioning Infrastructure (NPI).

Dr Graeme Kernich, CRCSI CEO, says that in today’s world, precise positioning information is more important than ever.

“In a world where autonomous vehicles and drone-based parcel delivery are becoming close to reality, robust, reliable, accurate and precise positioning information is vital,” Kernich says.

“We have been working with partners, like Geoscience Australia, for the past several years to deliver applied research to create a multi-GNSS-enabled National Positioning Infrastructure.

“One of the grand challenges the CRCSI set with its partner base was to conduct research that solves impediments to the creation of a sparse, continental-scale, precise positioning NPI. Our research teams at Curtin University, RMIT, QUT, and University of New South Wales have been integral to the developments that have underpinned the NPI,” Kernich says.

“It was the CRCSI that first conceived the idea of a nationwide integrated precise positioning framework back in 2008. This subsequently became known as the NPI and has since been led by Geoscience Australia, to operationalize the research,” he says.

“We are delighted to see the NPI being funded. This will allow our nation to drive innovation and deliver broad cross-sector benefits to a range of industries, including the fledgling autonomous vehicle sector and the ever-growing consumer market,” Kernich says.

“The NPI has been estimated to deliver at least $32.0 billion of cumulative benefits to the agriculture, mining and construction sectors alone by 2030. With our partners we have already achieved several world-firsts, including using an Australian generated, satellite-delivered correction message to guide Australia’s first fully autonomous robotic tractor in real time, and the development of a novel approach to precise GNSS positioning that reduces the dependence on ground infrastructure,” Kernich says.

“Research and innovation take time and investment. The NPI is the culmination of about a dozen projects with over 30 government, academic, and industry players involved. Again, we welcome the government’s funding announcement and congratulate Geoscience Australia for their leadership and commitment in delivering on Australia’s priority science objectives.

“We look forward to the implementation of the NPI where all Australians will have access to reliable, accurate location information whenever and wherever they need it.”

Digital Earth Australia funding increases

The Australian Government will also provide Digital Earth Australia (DEA) with $36.9 million over three years from 2019-20 and $12.8 million ongoing.

Digital Earth Australia is a key piece of public data infrastructure that provides Australia with an analysis platform for satellite imagery. DEA will offer Australian private industry access to stable, standardized data from which it can innovate to produce new products and services to enhance their business and be competitive in global markets.

Dr Graeme Kernich, CRCSI CEO, says DEA will unlock the potential we know satellite imagery and data hold by simplifying both data access and analysis.

“Digital Earth Australia is a game changer,” Kernich says. “Over the last 10 years, the CRCSI has worked closely with Geoscience Australia (GA), and other partners, to develop innovative software and techniques, and new standards in open source data and software.

“We led the first investments in the research that spawned DEA and we are proud that GA has now taken our research and developed it into a world-leading capability,” he says.

“Ongoing funding from the Australian Government ensures that this key piece of public data infrastructure will provide Australians, from all sectors, with a simple, continent-wide analysis platform for satellite imagery,” Kernich explains.

“Whether you’re a farmer assessing crop or pasture health, or a climate scientist interested in coastal erosion, DEA provides you with free access to thirty years of satellite imagery of the Australian continent.

“The CRCSI is currently helping GA define how they encourage industry to use DEA to drive business growth and build new products and services.

“Outcomes based on our initial industry consultation have shown the biggest industries likely to benefit from using DEA are agriculture, environmental monitoring, mining, smart cities, emergency services, banking and insurance, and state and local governments,” Kernich says.

DEA is the Australian Government’s implementation of the open source Open Data Cube Initiative (ODC), which around 40 countries are looking to operate.

“We are also working with GA on improving the ODC, a world-class open source digital infrastructure underpinning DEA. This will make the data platform easy to deploy to new countries and businesses anywhere in the world,” Kernich says.

“Our involvement with ODC is helping to coordinate and grow a global open source community to assist users across the world explore how they can use the ODC.”

Hike in fund allocation of Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS)

The Australian Government has also decided to earmark $160.9 million over four years from 2018-19 and $39.2 million in ongoing funding from 2022-23 to improve the accuracy, integrity and availability of satellite navigation through a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS). This will realize the SBAS test-bed which is currently running across Australia-New Zealand.

The CRCSI is managing the industry based demonstrator projects of the SBAS test-bed and the economic benefits study. While the infrastructure management is being led by Geoscience Australia in partnership with Land Information New Zealand and the global technology companies GMV, Inmarsat and Lockheed Martin.

Dr Graeme Kernich, CRCSI CEO, says the SBAS test-bed is a perfect example of how CRCs can manage collaborative research and development across multiple industry sectors.

“The CRCSI has a strong track record of bringing the best people together from the private sector, government and academia to solve the most complex spatial problems, the SBAS test-bed is one of the finest examples of this,” Kernich says.

“More accurate and reliable satellite positioning technology will improve the safety and efficiency of many sectors across Australia and New Zealand,” he says. “There are 28 projects across ten sectors, with over 150 collaborating organizations currently involved in the test-bed, making the footprint of this world-first trial truly trans-Tasman,” Kernich says.

So, what is SBAS?

“SBAS augments and corrects GPS signals to achieve more accurate and robust positioning,” Kernich explains. “Improvements down from 5m to 10cm are possible.

“We have been coordinating multiple trials of first and second generation SBAS and Precise Point Positioning correction signals since mid-2017. Our industry partners are crying out for this technology because a more precise positioning capability brings far-reaching and lasting impacts,” he says.

“Data analysis results and the economic benefits reported from the test-bed are very promising and will translate across agriculture, aviation, consumer, construction, maritime, mining, rail, road, spatial and utilities.

“This is a formidable technology story and a practical demonstration of downstream space applications. We are looking forward to continuing the test-bed over the coming nine months and assessing the economic and social benefits the operational system will bring to Australia, and possibly New Zealand,” Kernich says.