Researchers develop universal satellite navigation

A team of Australian and Dutch scientists have worked out a way to integrate signals from multiple global positioning systems in a single receiver.

Most civilian receivers on the market today rely on GPS technology, put in place by the US military. However, the new receivers, developed by professor Peter Teunissen of Curtin University in Perth and Dr Dennis Odijk of Delft Institute in the Netherlands, also rely on Russian Glonass satellites. The same principle could also be applied to tap European Galileo and Chinese Beidou systems.

Teunissen told ABC that more than 100 global navigation satellites will be operational by 2016 and as many as 150 should enter service by 2016, resulting in a broader and more diverse network.

GPS receivers require signals from four satellites to work out accurate coordinates, but receivers often can’t lock on to enough satellites, particularly in urban areas. The integration of multiple satellite systems should improve reception, by allowing receivers to tap signals from other networks.

“You have to take care of all sorts of intersystem and signal bias, as well as different hardware delays between the systems,” Teunissen said. “We started by looking at the original raw signals transmitted by the satellites and identifying ways of calibrating them.”

He pointed out that the new technology could eliminate the need for expensive dual-frequency navigation systems which require a 20 degree about the horizon line of site to satellites.

“Instead you’ll be able to use inexpensive single frequency systems tracking to 30 degrees above the horizon,” Teunissen said.

The new technology should be available in a few years and it will extend operational range, improve reliability and benefit numerous industries, including mining, agriculture and geosciences.