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“GNSS has a big role to play in Indian economy”

Nov 2017 | No Comment

Dr Jayanta Kumar Ray

Vice President – GNSS and Aerospace Electronics, Accord Software & Systems Pvt Ltd India shares his thoughts on issues and possibilities of GNSS in India

Your vision is “Innovative Information Technology Solutions for a better world”. Explain how your products and solutions are aligned with the vision statement.

Accord has been striving to create innovative technology solutions that benefit our customers in particular and the nation at large over the past two and a half decades. By virtue of steady and continuous investments in research and development into Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and allied fields, Accord has provided out-of-thebox techniques and methods to solve the customer needs in many critical applications including automotive, defence, and aerospace. Some of our key customers such as Research Centre Imarat (RCI-DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) always encouraged us to create Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) GNSS receivers that motivated us to build innovative solutions.

We believe Accord played a key role in our country achieving self-reliance in navigation area in aerospace and defence. Our vision was truly rewarded when we received DRDO Technology Absorption Award from the Honorable Prime Minister of India Sri Narendra Modi for the indigenous design, development and production of Advanced High Dynamics GPS+GLONASS+GAGAN Receivers.

Accord has been one of the leaders in developing SBAS receivers. How has been its penetration among users so far?

Accord built the first GPS-SBAS receiver in 2005 and got it certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States for airworthiness in 2007. Since then, Accord has created nearly half-a-dozen variants of the GPS-SBAS receiver and got them certified by the FAA. These safety-critical and lifecritical GNSS receivers guarantee to have better than one-in-ten-million failure rate.

Accord’s GPS-SBAS receivers are used in thousands of general aviation aircraft, experimental aircraft, UAVs, drones etc. in the USA, UK, Australia, Italy, Germany, Israel and other countries. Some of the aircraft models where our GPS-SBAS receivers are used are Beechcraft, Cessna, Dornier, Pilatus, Piper and Bell Helicopter. This is one Indian product which has gone truly global.

In India, our FAA certified GPS-SBAS receivers were used in GAGAN signalin- space validation. Variants of the GPSSBAS receivers, including GPS-SBASGLONASS and IRNSS-GPS-SBASGLONASS receivers are used in many critical applications in India including automotive, helicopter, aircraft, UAVs, ships, smart bombs and many other platforms for navigation and guidance.

What has been the best “time to first fix” by Accord GNSS receivers?

The ‘time-to-first-fix’ of Accord’s GNSS receivers are amongst the best in the world. Accord’s GNSS receivers are benchmarked with the best in class GNSS receivers in the world in terms of cold start time, warm start time, hot start time, signal reacquisition time in open sky, low signal and obstructed view conditions and found to be at par.

How ready Accord is, for handling Dual frequency multi-channel capability?

Accord not only has the capability of dual frequency multi-channel GNSS receiver, but, we already have ready solution of dual frequency, multi-constellation, multichannel GNSS receiver. Accord developed IRNSS dual frequency Reference receiver for ISRO in 2013 even before the IRNSS satellites were launched. Today, Accord has multi-constellation GNSS receivers covering GPS L1, L2, L5, GAGAN L1, GLONASS L1, L2, Galileo E1, E5a, E5b, IRNSS L5, S, BeiDou B1, B2 constellation receivers.

How do you see the growth potential of GAGAN in India?

GAGAN provides integrity information in addition to the corrections to the satellites measurements. GNSS receivers employ information from GAGAN to enhance the integrity and reliability of the position solution and compute the error protection limits, suitable for aviation applications. Further, GAGAN enhances the accuracy and availability of GPS solution. Position information with high degree of reliability and accuracy from GPS-GAGAN is also very useful for safety applications including aerospace, railways, mining, precision farming, precise timing and automotive applications. Additionally, the text messaging services from GAGAN could be very effectively used for disaster management.

What is your opinion to explore the potential synergy between IRNSS and GAGAN?

IRNSS and GAGAN have very different objectives. While, IRNSS provides an independent means of position computation using Indian satellite navigation system, GAGAN is used to improve the reliability and accuracy of the computed position using US GPS. IRNSS by virtue of its dual frequency satellite signals at L5 and S, allows the receiver to have ionospheric-free measurements. On the contrary, GAGAN satellite signal provides estimates of the ionospheric errors to single frequency GPS receivers. It is conceivable that IRNSS and GAGAN satellites send corrections to measurements that would benefit the single frequency GPS-GAGAN and GPS-IRNSS receivers.

Do you think that India is ready to use IRNSS as we use GNSS in our daily life?

Today, GPS is used in all walks of life and has become integral part of our dayto- day life. For example, it is extensively used for route guidance, fleet operations, asset tracking etc. It is expected that in the coming days many of these operations will be carried out using IRNSS, in addition to GPS. However, this could happen only when inclusion of IRNSS does not drive the cost of the system substantially. That means someone must come out with IRNSS chipset solution soon, which could bring down the cost to own IRNSS receiver. A mandate from the Government recommending use of IRNSS in critical applications could make IRNSS popular in India.

What are key challenges faced by companies like Accord to develop technologies pertaining to GNSS for India and overseas?

Accord has been developing GNSS receiver solutions for Indian and overseas customers for more than two decades. Accord’s receiver solutions are used in space, military aerospace, civilian aircraft, automotive, hand-held, timing and varieties of applications. The major challenges faced by companies like Accord are a) most often the selection of a receiver by the end-user is governed by the cost alone and not by its feature, indigenousness, technical support and after-sale service b) some of the tax structures are not favorable to indigenous product development c) Quantities required in India are small compared to the world market, therefore, it is difficult to make big investment for Indian market only and d) very few educational institutes teach GPS technology and therefore there is always a shortage of trained manpower to work in the development of GNSS receiver.

How do you see the private sector contribution in technology research and role in growth of GNSS technology based market in India?

GNSS technology is of strategic importance to the country and has a big role to play in the economy of the country as well. The investment made by US in GPS enabled a trillion-dollar economy spanning multiple sectors such as Aviation, Automobiles, logistics, Timing, Security and Mobile navigation. While companies like Accord is focusing on research in the core GNSS area, there are several players developing application based on them. Fleet tracking and Asset Tracking are the two critical applications areas which can deeply impact the everyday life of all Indians in the years to come.

What initiatives should be taken by private sector in engaging with educational institutions for improving GNSS technology research?

First we need to create awareness of the huge opportunity offered by Navigation to all the students. The kind of applications one can make using this technology is only limited by one’s imagination only. Towards this Private sector companies like us should conduct workshops in colleges and offer products at a discount to the student community. We also need to sponsor good students for higher studies in the area of navigation or provide internship opportunities at our workplace.

What according to you, are the technology and applications trends going to emerge in near future?

Some of the possible technology / application trends that may emerge in the near future are:

▪ We might increasingly see prevalence of multi constellation GNSS solutions

▪ Indoor and under water and underground positioning on demand may become a reality which would be available to all

▪ GNSS in watches with lowest power consumption would become the norm

▪ Navigation will increasingly become linked to security leading to the formation of new vertical for growth.

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