Protecting our Critical Satellite Navigation Infrastructure

ARC Linkage Projects: Revolutionising Industries

With a relationship going back to 1994, UNSW Engineering and GPSat Systems have enjoyed a productive, longstanding and highly satisfying partnership.

As leaders in the provision of innovative satellite navigation equipment to sectors including aerospace, mining and defence, GPSat Systems are ever cognisant of the importance of being able to accurately determine position 24/7. “Our GPS and GNSS system solutions are helping revolutionise industries across Australia who are benefitting from improved efficiency, profitability and safety,” says Graeme Hooper, GPSat Systems Engineering Manager and Director of R&D Technology.

Collaboration & Innovation

GPSat Systems’ current collaboration with UNSW and the University of Adelaide, builds on many years of previous research between the organisations and is being undertaken with the help of a significant Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant. The project, in a nutshell, is about helping protect Australia’s critical infrastructure against GPS interference. In addition, the collaborators have been awarded a related Capability Technology Demonstration (CTD) project, part of the Department of Defence’s Innovation Hub.

According to Professor Andrew Dempster, Director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) there are numerous mission-critical GNSS (global navigation satellite system) installations across the country - for precision aircraft approach, precise timing for digital services like the stock exchange, and industrial machine control among many others. These installations are vulnerable to radio frequency interference from unintentional ‘jamming’, as well as the more insidious practice of ‘spoofing’.

A ‘jammer’ is a personal privacy device that can stop the GPS in your car or smartphone working. Spoofing, on the other hand, is the deliberate interference of a GPS signal by an imposter signal that causes the GPS receiver to report an inaccurate position.

“You can imagine the safety and productivity implications if a GPS signal is interfered with in any way,” says Dempster. “If the jammer in your car not only stops your GPS working, but affects the ability of planes to land at a nearby airport, that is a pretty major problem.”

Global Interest

The GNSS RF Inference FINder (GRFFIN) family of products stemming from both the original ARC research and further evolved through the CTD project is in the process of being introduced to both domestic and international markets. The unique technologies contained within GRIFFIN products and the performance capabilities achieved are certainly attracting considerable interest globally.

“The GRIFFIN system consists of several monitoring nodes installed in the area surrounding the GNSS infrastructure requiring protection. It can detect and geo-locate a broad variety of jammers and spoofers, some within an accuracy of just a few metres,” Hooper explains.

Long-term Partnerships

Hooper says his experience of working with Dempster and his team from ACSER has been excellent:

“Our work with UNSW has greatly helped us undertake the necessary technical work in detailed signal processing and mathematical modelling, and then applying it back to a real-world application. The skillset required to work in these highly technical areas of satellite navigation is very lightly occupied in Australia, so working with the universities has enabled us to produce world-class solutions without trying to recruit from a very limited Australian workforce.”