UK-based Sat-Nav Trial to Improve GPS Performance

Overlay systems can substantially decrease the errors in normal sat-nav fixes from metres down to just centimetres. Inmarsat's system is in a testing phase at the juncture, utilising an aged satellite positioned over the Atlantic to transmit the assurance data.

FREMONT, CA : London-based satellite company Inmarsat is testing an overlay system to enhance the performance of GPS signals received in the UK. Britain's departure from the European Union indicates it is no longer involved in the bloc's Galileo sat-nav system, nor its augmentation service called Egnos. Overlay systems can substantially decrease the errors in normal sat-nav fixes from metres down to just centimetres. They're especially valuable in giving planes supplementary certainty in landing.

This is particularly valid in poor weather. But in the future, they're presumably to play an increasing function across the transport sector as vehicles become more automatic. Driverless trains, trucks, boats, cars, and buses will be the biggest beneficiaries. Agriculture is also evolving as a significant user, ensuring tractors learn exactly where in a field to drill seed or spread fertiliser.

Inmarsat's system is in a testing phase at the juncture. It's utilising an aged satellite positioned out over the Atlantic to transmit the assurance data. British partners on the project include Goonhilly Earth Station Limited in Cornwall and GMV NSL, which specialises in designing positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) technologies.

Augmentation systems enhance the fundamental service by reviewing the precision of signals and alerting users if there are problems. But they are not a substitute for the underlying service. Egnos system depends on Galileo and GPS. If they stop functioning, Egnos has nothing to correct. On the other hand, UKSBAS - the UK Space-Based Augmentation System - and its use of GPS. Nonetheless, such programmes are becoming popular around the world. USA, China, Russia, Japan and India all run augmentation systems. And Inmarsat has just become involved in a project to design one for Australia and New Zealand.

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