Q. Mr. Ganeshan can you tell us about the status of GAGAN
GAGAN is now fully operational. We now have two satellites G-SAT 8 and G-SAT 10 which carries the GAGAN payload. With the navigation payload on GSAT 8 and G-SAT 10 we make it available for navigation purposes. A single satellite carrying the navigation payload or augmented payload is enough for the aviation purpose. Today with two satellites carrying this payload we have the capability of an aircraft coming in for approach for landing purposes. This is certified with APV1 ie. Approach with vertical guidance. This will guide the aircraft to about 1.3 kms from the edge of the runway. This is the sort of capability we have developed.
BENIFTS OF GAGAN ARE OBVIOUS
It helps you to do a point to point flight. Today when you fly from banglore to Delhi there is a way point reporting. So you go to a particular point and then you can see on the screen of the aircraft that it takes a diversion. Now instead of doing that you can have a crow flight which means now there is a tremendous amount of saving of fuel , it also reduces carbon emission and saves time. Also, since accuracy of GAGAN is with integrity. Our accuracy is now 1 Meter in horizontal and 2 meters in vertical. It means that now you can pack many aircrafts one behind the another. It has also improved the passanger carrying capacity.
There are many non-aviation benefits of GAGAN also. Already ISRO is trying to help Railways. Particularly at the unmanned railway crossing where many deaths have taken place. Now a system is being developed which will be installed with a hooting system. So when a train is crossing an unmanned railway crossing, the hooting system will warn the people around it about the arrival of the train. We already have Bhuwan which tells about the detailed map of India and if we also connect the train with GAGAN , it will start hooting automatically. This will be a significant contribution.
Talks are also on about developing Anti-collision devices in Konkan valley.
We are also in touch with National Highway Authority about how they can benefit from GAGAN.
Forest department is already benefitting by covering the areas by GAGAN and also to identify the wildfires in the forest areas. This is just a handful of things I am telling you. There is going to be an explosion of areas where we benefit from it (GAGAN).
Q. Railways have lined up ISRO to enhance their safety and efficiency. Can you elaborate a little about that?
There are two major aspects. One is about managing the unmanned crossings. So that accidents are minimised and safety is enhanced. The development of hooting system will alert the people in advance so that when they are crossing an unmanned railway crossing they are not taken by surprise by a train approaching them fast. These accidents will probably be eliminated.
Another thing is collision. Since we are talking about an accuracy of 1 Meter. We can put an unique ID for each railway line and if a train is coming on that particular track the relative positions can be transferred to a central information hub and we can ensure that collision can be avoided. These are just few things. We can do much more. For example, we can put a GAGAN receiver on a goods train and can locate their location. Sometimes these goods trains are taken to a long route, but if you have a GAGAN receiver on it then you can monitor the location. It’s like an intelligent transportation system. If you know the position of your wagons you can easily divert them according to your need. Benefits are endless if you know the exact position of any moving or static object. It’s just going to be a mind bogling benefit that one is going to get in the railways.
Q. But are we in a position or is railways or ISRO in a position to utilise the benefits of GAGAN? Have we developed any such system?
That is why this project is being initiated. These have not been implemented. These are in demonstration phases. We have just GAGAN system coming certified. These things will take some time, but I believe that within a year or so all these things will be realised.
Q. But don’t you think that railways could have done a bit more as far as this anti-collision devise is concerned?
There is already a Konkan project going on in this regard.
Q. But IIT Kanpur was working on this and the project was scrapped midway.
Instead of looking at what has not been done, we should look at what needs to be done. How quickly it can be done and how it is going to be done. In my perception things have already started. And by the end of GNSS-User Meet it will drive home clearly that there is a need of a working group with all the stakeholders coming together, it includes the industries, it includes the ministries, it includes the location based system and so on. All the players need to be integrated if this has to be made efficient.
Q. Why has railways not used GAGAN and ISRO so far? We see so many accidents take place. Why is there no anti-collision device in place? How could ISRO help railways go paperless?
In Chennai we have already implemented this paperless ticketing system. There is an app which uses GAGAN and when you board a train the money is deducted. So no more standing in line for tickets. Apart from anti-collision devices and monitoring the unmanned crossing, GAGAN can also be used for alignment of railways. In the case of heavy rains the railway tracks get disturbed. All this can be managed with the help of GAGAN receivers. And I believe that GAGAN will not only improve safety and efficiency for railways and roadways and many others with time to come.
Q. PM Modi has been stressing about the use of space technology. He even wants other ministries to use space technology. Do you see other ministries apart from railways proactively taking part in using space technology and has someone approached you so far?
As I said that railways have already approached, transport department is also trying to approach us. There are beneficiaries also like forest department. All of them are now approaching us to see what benefits they can get. All of this will catch up in the coming days. They can already see the benefits. I don’t think that you will even ask this question to me next year because by that time you would have seen benefits reaching. So, the next time we conduct a User Meet, I want all the users to speak, not the service providers. We want to see how much of benefit they have got.
Q. I was listening to the session going on here, and the focus was on smart cities. Since this govt has already announced names of 100 cities which they want to convert into smart cities. What kind of role can ISRO/ GAGAN play in that?
In a smart city you must have a good transportation system. Position information becomes fundamental for any smart city. So satellite based augmentation system like GAGAN and also IRNSS will play a very critical role in development of smart cities in the country.
Q. Mr. Ganeshan, if I can ask you from common man’s point of view why is GAGAGN and Bhuwan not as popular as GPS? And when will that time come when we can use GAGAN on our phone and reach a location?
GPS was evolved almost two decades ago as a programme. GAGAN is only two years old. But that’s not a comparison. Even today I believe that utility of such a navigation service [GPS] is not fully met even in systems which have come much earlier to us. I think we are doing relatively well. Today, if a joint working group is formed than we are much ahead of the others. It’s just a matter of short time when thing will begin to happen.
Q. How do you see India’s space programme evolve over the last couple of years?
It has been phenomenal. Look at our Mars mission, look at our chandrayaan mission. We have done so much. These are the missions which attract attention from the scientific community and from the common man. What we are doing in communication satellite and what we are doing in remote sensing satellites and navigation programmes. The motive of our space programme is that the benefits of it reaches to the last man. A citizen centric programme is what we have in space technology.
Q. So can GAGAN replace GPS?
GAGAN is GPS aided geo augmented navigation. It is an augmentation on the GPS. GPS might not meet the accuracy requirements as what GAGAN can provide. The message if you want is ‘replace GPS receivers with GAGAN receivers.’
Q. Can the common man receive GAGAN on his phone?
It is already there on high end receiver device. It can be used on your mobile. Its available for everyone now.
Q. How is GAGAN helping Airport Authority of India?
AAI has responsibility of providing the air navigation service. Today we have ILS in majority of the airports which supports the landing requirements. These things will be replaced by GAGAN. Also, there is a talk going on about the green-field airports where very small cities and districts of India will have airports. For all of them you need not have very good landing facility and mainitaininace of all these things are very time consuming and costly. All of this can be simplified with just a GAGAN receiver on board and a flight management system equipped on aircraft. This is going to be very beneficial for AAI.
Q. How are you collaborating with private players?
That is one of the main objectives. We are service providers. Even in the satellite field we take so much from the industry. Its going to be a many industries participating. Particularly in the navigation sector and application area, I think it is going to be a rich potential for the app developers, platform developers and receivers. The idea is to bring together all the stake holders on one platform. And there is a lot of potential for the companies to participate and bring home the benefits to the common man.
Q. But will you be opening your doors for the private market?
Already yes! Yes! We now have one launch per month now. If you have to meet that sort of an aggressive requirement ISRO alone will have difficulty doing that. So we will have participation from the private players.