Position, Navigation & Timing

GPS navigation device, shutterstock.comJust about everything an individual, community, business, public agency or Government does relies on accurate information about location and time, whether in day-to-day activities or for long-term planning.

Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) services are provided by a network of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), which operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all types of weather. These services are available anywhere on Earth and are freely accessible by anyone with a GPS or GNSS receiver.

Although not currently available in Australia, Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) provide an additional navigation message to users, which confirms their primary position service is operating correctly. While used primarily in aerospace applications, SBAS can be utilised by Earth-based users as it has the added advantage of enhancing the accuracy of other GNSS systems.

A variation of SBAS is to use one or more highly accurate static GNSS called Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) with a ground-based radio or mobile phone as the data link to mobile units. CORS offer very precise correction data and allow the mobile user to position themselves to 2cm in real-time. CORS are increasingly used to support tens of thousands of machine control systems in civil engineering, mining, agriculture and ports in Australia.

The most common products in Australia using the position services are Satnav devices and smartphones. Both provide directions by relating the current position of the device to the intended destination and displaying the information on an electronic map. These devices are used by sailors, bushwalkers and others. They are also increasingly used by emergency services, utility field workers and anyone else who needs to be able to navigate outdoors.

For the civil aviation community, safety is paramount and aviation around the world is moving to use PNT services for performance-based navigation. This helps make the skies safer and aircraft routing more efficient, which saves time, fuel and money. In addition to these fundamental position and navigation features, GNSS deliver a very precise timing service. For example, banking transactions are now commonly synchronised around the world using distributed GNSS timing receivers. The timing service is also widely used in the energy, telecommunications, cable and TV broadcast sectors.

As these examples illustrate, the Position, Navigation and Timing Services from GNSS, such as GPS, are used not just by consumers but also in a wide range of other safety, commercial and industrial applications. PNT has become a true space age utility.