Precision positioning for Australia

Australia depends increasingly on technology to support industries such as mining, agriculture, shipping and aviation. The security of Australia and its people also depends on the ability to accurately understand how our continent is physically changing over time. State surveyors, Essential Services and the Australian Defence Force currently all rely on the ability to determine global position with a decimetre to centimetre accuracy.

How does AuScope help?

AuScope is designed to increase understanding of the evolution of the Australian continent by providing access to world-class earth and geospatial research infrastructure.

AuScope’s key geospatial infrastructure — developed through the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) investment — support government and industry by producing an updated spatial referencing system that will underpin high resolution mapping and accurate satellite positioning in Australia.

The new positioning infrastructure will deliver accuracies of a millimetre and deliver a step change in positioning applications that will allow monitoring subtle movements in the Australian continent, which is drifting northwards by several centimetres a year.

It will benefit the research sector, as well as the government and industry, in tackling big environmental issues such as rising sea level, climate and natural hazard assessment, as well as having commercial applications in the aviation, agriculture and mining industries, such as improving the ability of farmers to use GPS satellites to steer their machinery.

In partnerships with Geoscience Australia, Landgate, The University of Tasmania and Australian National University, AuScope’s positioning infrastructure includes three telescopes, upgraded Satellite Laser Ranging facilities, 100 new stations for the National Global Navigation Satellite System network, and updated gravity measurement facilities.

Results

Before government investment into AuScope there was only one telescope in Australia, in Tasmania, making regular observations as part of a global array. Measurements of the Australian continent were northern-hemisphere biased and the southern part of the reference frame lacked the accuracy of the north. Now, AuScope’s Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) array in conjunction with the other parts of AuScope’s positioning infrastructure, provide data that gives the orientation and shape of the Earth, reveal how the continents are moving and measure the length of the day. This data helps define the Terrestrial Reference Frame, our fundamental position reference grid.

The value of AuScope infrastructure through improved data sharing (for research) between Commonwealth, and states and territories — as well as underpinning precise positioning in Australia — has the potential to add up to 2.1 per cent to Australia’s gross domestic product by 2030 through productivity gains in mining, construction and agriculture alone.

“The AuScope geodetic infrastructure will provide unique insights into Australian earthquakes and seismic hazard.”
Dr Chris Pigram, CEO, Geoscience Australia

Did you know?

  • Earth and spatial science provide crucial information which underpins the knowledge required to meet many challenges that face Australia and with which to build Australia’s economy.
  • Since 2007 AuScope has received funding under NCRIS and associated initiatives for earth science and geospatial research infrastructure, which has helped it bring together 23 participants including the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation, Geoscience Australia, 11 universities and state government agencies that have also made co-investments. 
  • AuScope has built new, and improved existing equipment and infrastructure that will keep Australian researchers leading their field internationally.
  • AuScope has invested in people to ensure that government and industry are receiving the very best scientific advice to help make complex and important decisions on the sustainability of our continent. Around 60 technical and research staff are directly employed on AuScope activities across Australia. 

The Australian Government is proud to provide funding for AuScope’s important work through NCRIS.

You can find out more about AuScope and about other NCRIS initiatives on their websites.