The construction of three new satellite positioning ground stations in the Kimberley is hoped to provide a technological boost to major sectors in the region such as mining, agriculture and Indigenous land management.
- Three new GPS ground stations are to be built in Kimberley
- Project hopes to provide more accurate location measurements
- Mining, agriculture and indigenous land management expected to benefit
The new receivers are part of a nation-wide upgrade of Australia’s Global Navigation Satellite System network, or what’s commonly called ‘GPS’, named after the satellite system owned by the United States.
The ground stations will be spaced out across Australia with new ones built in Halls Creek, Kalumburu and along the Gibb River to complement an upgrade of existing receivers in Broome, Kununurra and Halls Creek.
Commonwealth agency Geoscience Australia hopes to have the project completed by mid next year.
Most people are familiar with their smartphone GPS, which can narrow down someone’s position to five or ten metres using a global network of satellites.
GNSS researcher and University of Melbourne lecturer Amir Khodabandeh said the ground-based receivers would improve that accuracy, for specialist industries, down to centimetres and in some instances millimetres.
“There’s many applications, such as precision agriculture and intelligent transport systems,” he said.
“People are really looking for much more accurate positioning, much more precise navigation solutions.
Halls Creek Shire approved a receiver to be built this week and the council’s president Malcolm Edwards said it would benefit the region endowed with mining interests and huge tracts of pastoral land.
“The mining sector will probably use it, police no doubt, state emergency services, aircraft. I think it’s a great thing actually,” he said.
“I’m really pleased it’s going ahead.”
Technology to help map sacred sites
Geoscience Australia GNSS team lead Amy Peterson said better positioning data could help the work done by Indigenous ranger groups.
“So a lot of the ranger programs are very interested in mapping their country and understanding where sacred sites are located,” she said.
“They can use this technology to digitally transform some of their knowledge.”
The Kimberley is known for its large rugged pastoral stations and Ms Peterson said the project could pave the way for better ‘geofencing’ technology.
“There’s huge overheads on maintaining fences and some of these pastoral properties are absolutely huge,” she said.
Growing field in location data interpretation
But experts say people with a mobile phone shouldn’t expect a more accurate GPS reading after the ground stations are complete.
Ms Peterson said businesses could access the data freely from Geoscience Australia, but would more likely use a subscription service to help best interpret the raw numbers.
“There are start-up companies out there offering low cost solutions,” she said.
“They may come directly to us, innovate with that data and develop these services in a form we’re yet to realise.
But while GPS works in areas without mobile coverage, a connection to the internet is needed to interpret the more improved positioning data.
“So say if a surveyor was going out and using our correction service directly, they would be working within the mobile coverage area,” Ms Peterson said.
“Outside that area they wouldn’t be able to use it unless they were using a satellite connection.”