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Australia’s geospatial expertise on show at IAC 2017

Almost every sector in the Australian economy benefits from space technologies. The advent of global satellite and positioning technologies has enabled the precise navigation and positioning that Australians rely on in their everyday lives.

This week at the International Astronautical Congress 2017 (IAC 2017) in Adelaide, the Australian Government will be showcasing its broad range of capabilities, from the diverse geospatial technologies to satellite data analysis tools, including Geoscience Australia’s cutting edge work in this sector.

Some of Geoscience Australia’s key projects on display at IAC 2017 include modernisation of Australia’s Datum, the development of the new Digital Earth Australia satellite analysis platform and its many advances in positioning technology through the current trial of a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) for Australia.

Digital Earth Australia

One of the primary areas where Geoscience Australia is working with the international space community is through its innovative satellite data analysis platform, Digital Earth Australia. Digital Earth Australia is a world-leading analysis platform for satellite imagery and other Earth observation data. It builds on the open source software, Open Data Cubethat is being developed and implemented by partners from across the globe.

Digital Earth Australia will translate over 30 years of Earth observation data from international satellite operators into information and insights about the Australian environment, and capitalise on the billions of dollars invested in launching and operating Earth observation satellites globally. Once fully operational, it will provide access to regularly updated images of the entire Australian continent at 10 metre resolution and will help both government and private industry make informed decisions about our changing environment.

Positioning for the Future

Another of Geoscience Australia’s priority projects on show at IAC 2017 is its current trial of SBAS and Precise Point Positioning technology. This two year testbed is working with Australian industry partners to demonstrate positioning services across Australasia to ten centimetre accuracy. Improved accuracy will open a range of new and innovative applications, including major productivity improvements for agriculture, mining, engineering, logistics, transportation and location-based services. This will build the foundation for accurate satellite positioning through possible future investment in a National Positioning Infrastructure Capability.

A lady holding a mobile device showing a map on screen
Global positioning technologies has enabled the precise navigation and positioning that Australians rely on in their everyday lives

Modernising Australia’s geodetic datum

Australia’s fast-moving tectonic plate has also shifted 1.6 metres since 1994. This significantly impacts applications that rely on accurate satellite positioning, such as in-vehicle navigation, smartphones, automated mining operations, precision agriculture, and surveying where high absolute accuracies are required. The Australian Government is actively working with the spatial industry to modernise Australia’s geodetic datum. This is the coordinate system and set of reference points used to represent specific locations on the Earth’s surface, which further supports the need for more accurate satellite positioning capability.

Collaboration and leadership

Geoscience Australia’s innovative work and international collaborations goes beyond these key projects. As the Australian Government’s preeminent geoscience organisation, it has been in engaged in world-leading work in the geospatial field for many years. For example, since the 1970s, Geoscience Australia has supported the Landsat satellite mission, co-managed by NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and a key source of geospatial data for Australia. The recently upgraded satellite ground station in Alice Springs has been a critical part of this partnership.

The satellite data acquired over the decades through this facility has contributed to many important collaborative projects across government, such as the Sentinel Bushfire hotspots monitoring system and Digital Earth Australia and a range of applications including land cover assessments, weather and climate modelling, disaster and emergency management, agronomics, water resource assessment and coastal management.

Our spatial industry will also continue to provide focus to drive growth in location-dependent industries over the next decade; via the 2026 Spatial Industry Transformation and Growth Agenda and the Australian Earth Observation Community Plan 2026.

The Congress is a once in a generation opportunity for the Australian Government to demonstrate its spatial capability on the global stage and to engage with a high-level audience from international government agencies, industry and academia.

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