Australian Government Budget Announcement 2018-19 – Investing in Geoscience

The Australian Parliament 2018-19 Federal Budget

Great news for Australian industry is contained in the government budget estimates for 2018, with a commitment to developing high accuracy differential GPS in Australia. While the expenditure aims to strengthen productivity in the agriculture, mining and transportation industries, it encourages other business activity where the overall effect is an indirect economic benefit for the nation. The Federal Government will invest $224 million over four years "to improve the accuracy, integrity and availability of satellite navigation".

The investment includes $160.9 million to develop a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS), a form of DGPS or differential GPS – which Johnny Appleseed GPS has been advocating since 2006 – with the system to also receive $39.2 million in ongoing funding from 2022-23.

When completed, the SBAS will deliver comprehensive positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) data to an accuracy of 10 centimetres across all of Australia and its maritime zones. Regional Australians may well benefit indirectly from better precision farming techniques which increase yields and reduce fuel costs and seed loss, and where clearer navigation will benefit fishing trawlers and ocean-going cargo carriers alike, especially in congested waters." Aviation is also a clear possible recipient of improved navigation, with more efficient take-offs and landings.

A further investment of $64 million in the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability (NPIC) scheme will be used to establish a national ground station network with assistance from the cellular-phone network. We can then expect facilitation across government and the private sector to ensure Australian industry has access to world-leading software tools for positioning. This will create direct improvements to surveying systems in real estate, civil engineering projects and mines, and guidance in land-forming, planting, fertilizing and harvesting, and in future autonomous transport systems. The NPIC investment aims to result in GPS accuracy of 3cm.

Dr James Johnson, is the Chief Executive Officer of Geoscience Australia which has been tasked to deliver this investment to the nation over the next 4 and ensuing years. He says “Geoscience Australia is putting Australian industry and business at the forefront of global innovation. These new programs augment Geoscience Australia's strong geoscience capability in energy and mineral resources, groundwater, fundamental geographic information, Australia's marine jurisdictions, and natural hazards.”

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