Viasat, Inc. has successfully demonstrated the first-ever UK satellite-based augmentation system (UK SBAS). This milestone showcases the potential of highly accurate GPS data to enhance safety and efficiency across air, land, and sea navigation.
The test flight, conducted from Cranfield Airport utilizing the National Flying Laboratory Centre’s Saab 340B aircraft, highlighted the capabilities of the UK-based SBAS in delivering more precise and reliable navigation data.
Notably, the UK has withdrawn from the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), prompting the need for a complementary UK SBAS to ensure critical safety of life navigation services.
How it works
UK SBAS operates by combining ground monitoring data with satellite connectivity, resulting in significantly more reliable navigational data.
The system offers positioning accuracy down to a few centimeters, a substantial improvement compared to the standard GPS accuracy of a few meters. For aviation, this translates to increased trust in onboard instruments, especially in adverse weather conditions where visibility may be limited.
The implications for aviation safety are substantial, particularly for smaller aircraft flying into regional airports and general aviation airfields. Viasat’s research suggests that close to 40% of weather-related flight cancellations could have been avoided if UK SBAS were available, potentially revolutionizing the industry’s approach to challenging weather conditions.
Following the successful aviation test, the trial is poised to expand into other transport applications, including rail, uncrewed aerial vehicles, and autonomous road vehicles.
Good results, happy companies
“This trial on a sovereign UK SBAS is all about delivering trust. Trust for pilots in their tracking systems so they can stay safe in challenging conditions. Trust for the aviation industry more broadly so it can rely on data to operate more efficiently,” said Todd McDonnell, President of International Government at Viasat.
Additionally, McDonnell highlighted the potential for the UK to leverage highly accurate tracking in the future development of its transport system as new technologies emerge.
Dean Thomas, Position, Navigation, and Timing Lead at the UK Space Agency, stressed the vital role of the project in helping the government understand the potential benefits of a UK SBAS:
“The flight trial both demonstrates the capability of UK industry in delivering space based PNT solutions and illustrates the benefits of delivering UK PNT projects facilitated by ESA, through the highly flexible NAVISP programme.”—Dean Thomas, Position, Navigation, and Timing Lead, UK Space Agency
The UK SBAS project involves a collaborative effort led by Viasat, with key contributors including Goonhilly Earth Station, CGI UK, GMV, Ordnance Survey, Cranfield University, the Cranfield National Flying Laboratory Centre, and Pildo Labs.
The project is fully funded by the government through the ESA NAVISP program, demonstrating the commitment to advancing high-accuracy, high-integrity positioning services for improved efficiency and innovation across the transport network.
The successful demonstration drew praise from Technology Minister Anthony Browne: “This successful demonstration illustrates the UK’s first-class space sector, and our capabilities in position, navigation and timing specifically.” The project aligns with the government’s focus on enhancing the efficiency of the transport network through the provision of high-accuracy navigation services.