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Jun 2018 | No Comment

Isro develops desi atomic clock, to be used in navigation satellites

In a significant development, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has developed an atomic clock that will be used in navigation satellites to measure precise location data. The space agency currently imports atomic clocks from European aerospace manufacturer Astrium for its navigation satellites.

Tapan Misra, Director of Ahmedabadbased Space Applications Centre (SAC), said, “SAC has developed an indigenous atomic clock and this clock is currently undergoing a series of qualification tests. Once it successfully clears all tests, the desi atomic clock will be used in an experimental navigation satellite to test its accuracy and durability in space.”

The SAC director said, “With the development of the desi atomic clock, Isro has become one of the few space organisations in the world which have gained the capability to develop this highly sophisticated technology. We don’t know the design and technology of the imported atomic clock. But the desi clock has been developed based on our designs and specifications. This clock is as good as the imported one. We are hopeful that it will easily work for more than five years.”

AAI gets IIT-Madras navigation research boost

Indian Institute of Technology Madras will help indigenize and improve air navigation systems under an MoU it signed with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) recently.

The institute and AAI will, as part of the agreement, conduct joint research to specifically address aviation infrastructure through domestic manufacture of navigation equipment and meet air traffic management challenges at airports in the country. The agreement will involve transfer of knowledge by IIT Madras in areas such as mathematical, analytical and data mining solutions as well as artificial intelligence, which are essential to research. It will also open up many areas in aviation to startups and industries to manufacture products under the Make in India policy. IIT researchers will have access to AAI aviation data.

As part of its ambitious ANS upgrade plans and the need to develop in-house capabilities with an efficient R&D system that supports ongoing indigenous initiatives, AAI has established a stateof- the-art Civil Aviation Research Organisation in Hyderabad. Collaboration with premier educational institutions is one of the elements that AAI envisages in R&D.

European GNSS Agency opens submissions for 2018 CLGE Young Surveyors Prize

The Council of European Geodetic Surveyors (CLGE), in partnership with the European GNSS Agency (GSA), has launched the seventh edition of its Young Surveyors Prize. The 2018 edition of the competition is open for submissions and, as in previous years, the GSA is sponsoring a special prize for ideas leveraging Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Young Surveyor’s Prize is inviting students of topography, GIS, geodesy, mapping and related studies to submit unique and innovative ideas in their field of expertise. Each winner or winning team stands to win a prize of EUR 1000.

Australia to invest AU$260 million in GPS tech

The Turnbull Government is investing in the GPS technology “that will create jobs and support Australian industry”, according to a press release from the office of Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator the Hon Matt Canavan, who said the Government is investing over $260 million to develop the satellite technology.

Under the package, $160.9 million will deliver a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) (the technology underpinning GPS) to improve the reliability and the accuracy of positioning data from five metres to 10 centimetresacross Australia and its maritime zone.

A $64 million investment in the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability (NPIC) will complement SBAS to improve GPS to an accuracy as precise as 3cm in areas of Australia with access to mobile coverage. A further $36.9 million is for Digital Earth Australia, a “world-class technology” that will give Australian businesses greater access to reliable, standardised satellite data that identifies physical changes to the Australian environment.

HKU creates new solution to keep GPS navigation on the right track

The innovative new solution aims to help GPS navigation differentiate between multilevel roads to correct an error that engineers have tried to solve the last 20 years.

Present vehicle navigation systems that use GPS with positioning error of 10-30 meters have had a long existing problem in determining which road level a vehicle has entered, especially for flyovers parallel to the ground level. Dubbed the Angle Difference Method, it will measure and compare the inclination angle of a vehicle and angles of different road levels stored in a Transport GIS to determine whether a vehicle has entered the ramp of a flyover or still on the ground level.

Devised by Professor Anthony Yeh Gar- On’s research team at the Department of Urban Planning and Design of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), the method uses an ordinary smartphone, that can be put anywhere at any angle in the vehicle, coupled with a plugged in or installed onboard diagnostic (OBD) device. The HKU research team lead by Professor Yeh team is currently in discussion with global GIS and vehicle navigation operators including major operators in China on potential application of the system to enable a major advancement in the current navigation system for vehicles, particularly in large cities with complicated flyover networks.

Brexit to ‘force work on Galileo sat-nav system out of UK’

Galileo has become something of a political football in Brexit talks. The EU says it would have to stop the UK from accessing the encrypted part of the network when it leaves next year.

Colin Paynter, the company’s UK managing director, said that EU rules required Airbus to transfer all work to its factories in France and Germany.

Mr Paynter was speaking at a Commons committee hearing on Exiting the European Union. The UK has played a key role in the programme, and Airbus is currently bidding for the renewal of a contract covering the Galileo ground control segment – potentially worth about 200 million euros. This work is currently run out of Portsmouth.

The UK’s access to Galileo’s encrypted service, which would be required for military and security uses of the system, would be blocked by the EU after Brexit. This warning prompted the Business Secretary Greg Clark to announce that the government would look into options for developing its own satellite-navigation system.

U.K. Said to threaten veto on new Galileo contract tenders

U.K. is considering vetoing the release of new contract tenders for the European Union’s Galileo satellite navigation system if the bloc doesn’t relax its stance on restricting Britain’s access to the program after Brexit.

European officials are trying to bring forward bids on 400 million euros ($471 million) of contracts to design and develop the next set of satellites for the program, according to a U.K. official familiar with the situation.

The U.K. view is that if contracts are tendered now, there’s so much doubt about what Britain’s future involvement will be that U.K. companies will be discouraged from bidding. Instead, the U.K. wants time to broker a compromise that enables continued involvement for the country and its space industry, which would give businesses the confidence to bid, one of the officials said. Science Minister Sam Gyimah said on Monday that Britain may withdraw from the program and set up its own satellite navigation system if the EU continues to play “hardball.”

Could Britain collaborate with Australia on a Galileo alternative?

As the United Kingdom continues to wrangle with the EU over access to, and involvement in, the European Galileo global navigation satellite system (GNSS), there is growing speculation that the country could seek to develop its own independent system with Australia — or even Japan.

Earlier this week, two Whitehall officials told the Financial Times that Australia has indicated a potential willingness to collaborate with the U.K. in the development of an independent satellite system.

In a May 21 statement coinciding with the Air Power Association’s inaugural Defence Space 2018 conference, the Britain’s defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, also hinted that the long-awaited U.K. Defence Space Strategy, could contain some provision for an alternative system, and confirmed the importance of reviewing Britain’s contribution to Galileo, as well as how it plans for “alternative systems in this crucial area.”

Digital Navigation ‘Neurons’ developed like ours

When Google DeepMind researchers trained a neural network to tackle a virtual maze, it spontaneously developed digital equivalents to the specialized neurons called grid cells that mammals use to navigate. Not only did the resulting AI system have superhuman navigation capabilities, the research could provide insight into how our brains work. Grid cells were the subject of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, alongside other navigation-related neurons. These cells are arranged in a lattice of hexagons, and the brain effectively overlays this pattern onto its environment. Whenever the animal crosses a point in space represented by one of the corners these hexagons, a neuron fires, allowing the animal to track its movement. Mammalian brains actually have multiple arrays of these cells. These arrays create overlapping grids of different sizes and orientations that together act like an in-built GPS.

The system even works in the dark and independently of the animal’s speed or direction. Researchers at DeepMind decided to see if they could test the idea in silicon using neural networks, as they roughly mimic the architecture of the brain. To start with, they used simulations of how rats move around square and circular environments to train a neural network to do path integration—a technical name for using dead-reckoning to work out where you are by keeping track of what direction and speed you’ve moved from a known point.

They found that, after training, patterns of activity that looked very similar to grid cells spontaneously appeared in one of the layers of the neural network. The researchers hadn’t programmed the model to exhibit this behavior.

To test whether these grid cells could play a role in vector-based navigation, they augmented the network so it could be trained using reinforcement learning. They set it to work navigating challenging virtual mazes and tweaked its performance by giving rewards for good navigation.

To test whether the digital grid cells were responsible for this performance, the researchers carried out another experiment where they prevented the artificial grid cells from forming, which significantly reduced the ability of the system to efficiently navigate. The DeepMind team says this suggests these cells are involved in vector-based navigation as had been hypothesized.

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