April 2015

Feature Story

New GNSS system to boost productivity

9 April 2015

A team of Australian and Japanese researchers have tested a new satellite positioning system that will boost the productivity of Australia’s rural industries and benefit the working and personal lives of many, particularly those living in regional and outback areas.

The system is known as the Japanese Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS).

The trials, undertaken at the Rice Research Australia farm in southern NSW, near the historic rural town of Jerilderie, were completed in January.

The team demonstrated the first time use of a fully robotic tractor, controlled entirely by QZSS, achieving positioning accuracies of around 5cm. Data from the satellite enabled the tractor to track, turn, and operate machinery doing a variety of routine farming operations such as inter-row tillage and fertiliser applications.

The research is a major step toward demonstrating that such a system could provide correction signals to enable precise GNSS-based positioning anywhere (outdoors) in Australia, at any time.

The strength of the system is the provision of wide-area positioning in areas with sparse GNSS ground stations and where mobile phone coverage does not exist. This is particularly important in Australia’s rural and outback areas where the building and operation of additional GNSS ground stations needed for high-accuracy positioning is costly.

The current research is a collaborative effort between Australia and Japan and is funded entirely by the Japanese government.

The team includes Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which built and operates the satellite system, RMIT University, University of NSW, University of New England, Hokkaido University, Hitachi Zosen, Hitachi Ltd, Yanmar, Rice Research Australia, SmartNet Australia, C R. Kennedy and Precision Agriculture.

Although the initial testing was focused on the use of the new technology in precision agriculture, the potential uses of the new service in Australia and elsewhere are enormous.

Dr Philip Collier, the CRCSI's Research Director says, "from mining to automated guidance of cars, indeed any outdoor application where a level of machine automation is required, this technology has the potential to help”.

"My prediction is that this sort of technology will move from sophisticated and expensive installations in machines to mobile phones. People will, in due course, have it in their back pockets”.

The first QZSS satellite is already in orbit. When fully deployed in 2023, the constellation will consist of seven satellites providing 24 hours coverage to the region.

The orbit configuration of these satellites will give continuous coverage at high elevation angles, providing improved satellite navigation in areas that challenge traditional GNSS satellite positioning capabilities, such as central city districts and other obstructed environments.

While intended primarily for users in Japan, the orbit design offers significant advantages to neighbouring East Asia countries, including Australia.

QZSS has a unique feature. Besides transmitting its own conventional positioning, navigation and timing signals, it also transmits augmentation signals to improve positioning performance. One of these augmentation signals - the L-band experimental (LEX) signal - is designed to allow high accuracy positioning in real-time through transmission of corrections for Precise Point Positioning (PPP).

This additional data delivery is a critical factor in ensuring the system can provide a continuous centimetre-level positioning service.

The research at Jerilderie is designed to assess the capacity of the LEX signal to deliver high-accuracy, real-time precise point positioning (PPP) consistently and reliably to Australian GNSS users. A series of correction messages relevant to Australian conditions has been developed and were tested as part of the current research project.

“Our objective is to get to the point where users are oblivious to the fact that they are using multiple satellite signals and multiple systems to receive precise, reliable, dependable and accurate position for whatever the application happens to be”, Dr Collier said.

The project is a major part of Australia’s current drive to establish a national positioning infrastructure, which will be a key factor in boosting future Australian productivity and competitiveness in industry and business activities.

Please contact Dr Phil Collier for further information.


The project hosted a stakeholder workshop in Sydney in mid-February with representatives from the Japanese and Australian governments and industry in attendance.

The workshop identified four potential areas for future activity:

  1. Development of a business case to validate the economic basis for the use of QZSS in Australia
  2. Further demonstrations of QZSS in other industries and other parts of Australia
  3. Addressing key science and research challenges such as reducing PPP convergence time
  4. Resolving regulatory restrictions around the use of robotic vehicles.

Subsequent meetings in Japan have confirmed interest in continuing to build on the collaborative relationships established through this initial project.

Areas for future collaboration were discussed, including specific opportunities to follow-on demonstration projects in agriculture, mining and autonomous vehicle support. Funding opportunities are currently being pursued.

From the Editor

Hello Readers

As the new Communication Manager, I’m keen to kick off the second quarter of 2015 with some communication feedback from you.

With this in mind, I’ve developed a brief communication survey. Please click here to imprint your impressions and future needs. There are just five questions to answer so do spend a few moments providing your insights. Many thanks!

The highlights this month are:

  • 12 years in the making and now its online – the NRM Spatial Hub has gone live
  • Japanese-Australian collaboration sees a driverless tractor work through its paces in Jerilderie 
  • The gift of a globe opens global opportunities for the private and public sector.

And more…

To stay up-to-date with regular news from CRCSI follow us on twitter and check out our news section online.

Enjoy reading the first issue for 2015 and thanks again for taking part in our communication survey.


Jessica Purbrick-Herbst
Communication Manager
Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information

Application of Research

NRM Hub Brings Data to Life

Just launched, the NRM Spatial Hub is a tool – its purpose is to support farmers and land managers make better decisions to improve land stewardship capability and enterprise profitability.

Using geospatial mapping data and satellite remote sensing this Australian Rangelands Initiative provides online access to government data, allowing beef and sheep producers to compare their groundcover management decisions with historical outcomes. 

This is the next wave of benchmarking tools that will provide Australian producers with access – using remote sensing technologies – to monitor groundcover and land conditions alongside total grazing pressure management. 

With interest from 150 properties covering 30 million hectares, the NRM Hub team will initially map the land before working with farmers to bring onfarm knowledge to transform the information into useable data.

Towards the end of 2015, the NRM Hub team will host regional workshops to showcase the benefits of the tool as a practical application for building knowledge around livestock carrying capacity, paddock design and infrastructure management.

Further details about this CRCSI initiative can be found at www.nrmhub.com.au

A Common Framework

The Future of Geocoded Addressing

Geocoded addressing – the converting of physical addresses to GPS coordinates – has becomes a vital tool for emergency response units, social services, insurance companies, telecommunications infrastructure, daily personal and business navigation and many more applications and uses.

For over a decade Australia has had the GNAF geocoded addressing product, a product of the PSMA. With the increasing sophistication of the geospatial landscape a number of private sector geocoded maps has also entered the market – such as WhereIs, Google or HERE, and Geepers.com – using the same data with differing results. End users have also increased their expectations around data accuracy, frequency of updates and improvements as a result of user generated content.

As a result ANZLIC – the spatial information council representing Australia and New Zealand governments, is seeking improvements that will lead to an even better nationally consistent, common geocoded addressing framework for all users.

During 2014 ANZLIC commissioned two studies from the CRCSI that focused on three objectives:

  1. Describing the current state of the geocoded addressing supply chain
  2. Identifying user needs and short-term improvement opportunities
  3. Developing a long-term future vision for geocoded addressing.

Conducted by 43pl members Business Aspect Consulting and Mercury Solutions, the studies resulted in two reports that were published in March 2015 ‘Optimising the Supply Chain for Geocoded Addressing in Australia’ and the second was the ‘Future of Geocoded Addressing in Australia’. A joint response to the studies was also published by ANZLIC and the PSMA in March.

A number of issues were highlighted in the key findings in the studies including:

  • Across the supply chain, data is collected for a range of purposes which may not align or be consistent with the needs of a national geocoded address dataset
  • The complex supply chain comprising multiple and varied business objectives, across all three levels of government, has resulted in duplication and less than optimal feedback mechanisms. 

The report found that to achieve the vision of National Geocoded Address product, consideration needs to be given to improvements in the current state of legislative, policy, business and technology impediment.

The next step involves the formation of a small working party from ANZLIC and the CRCSI to identify concrete steps for improvements.

Full copies of the two studies, and the ANZLIC and PSMA response are available here.


Open Digital Earth Foundation

One of the legacies from the November 2014 G20 meeting in Brisbane is the Open Digital Earth Foundation.

With a gift of the Globe and its IP from the Queensland Government, the Open Digital Earth Foundation has picked up the access to the technology, the expertise of the designers from QUT and the experience of those who have gone before them.

Two weeks ago, the Open Digital Earth Foundation presented The Foundation Globe to the Young Presidents’ Organisation’s annual conference in Melbourne. This network of global chief executives and business leaders had first glimpse of the Foundation Globe and to debate its opportunity to benefit every person in every nation.

“The Open Digital Earth Foundation aims to bring the power and benefits of Globe technologies - and its rich spatial information - around the world”, said Peter Woodgate, Chair, Open Digital Earth Foundation.

Collaboration is key to the Foundation’s capacity to build upon the work of the G20 Globe and bring broad societal benefits through the application of digital earth technologies.

A brochure outlining further details about the Open Digital Earth Foundation - including how to get involved can be downloaded.


Team CRCSI collects a number of spatial industry awards

Being recognised by peers and the broader industry adds a certain personal bounce to the work we do. The Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards (2014) were held in Brisbane on 11 March during the LOCATE15 conference. And at this event CRCSI proudly received a team award and two individual awards.

Nathan Quadros and the project teams at AAM and NGIS took out the JK Barrie Award for Overall Excellence for their work on the Pacific Island Coastal Inundation Capacity Building and Planning project. This project also won the award in the People and Community category.

“The CRCSI pivotal roles of design and project management enabled AAM and NGIS to deliver outstanding outcomes for the people of the Pacific Islands”, said Mark Freeburn, AAM.

On congratulating the team, Paul Farrell of NGIS Australia said, “The success of this project has been a great showcase of the CRCSI leading Australian companies into interesting and important projects on the world stage. I am extremely proud of what our team has been able to deliver for the people of the pacific islands”.

Just a week later this project was able to lend its expertise to assist with the Cyclone Pam recovery effort by mapping the food drop locations to aid local (on the ground) support. Read more here about the recovery effort.

Phil Delaney won Young Professional of the Year award winning ahead of a well-regarded group of individuals.

“The recognition came as a surprise, but a very welcome one. It feels fantastic to have invested a lot of time into the industry itself, and to know that the effort was appreciated by both my mentors and my peers”, said Phil.

The SIBA Chairman’s Award for 2014 went to CRCSI CEO Peter Woodgate for his role in helping industry development. “ I am delighted to be able to work with so many dedicated people in an industry that has such wonderful prospects for long term growth” said Peter.

Global Happenings

Google puts Remotely Sensed Data into the Hands of Non-profits

The following article is an extract from a presentation at the CRCSI Annual Conference in November 2014.

Google Earth Outreach, an initiative led by Rebecca Moore, as development from the Google Earth Engine, aims to make remotely sensed data more widely available through user interfaces that encourage more people to use it for good causes.

It all started when Rebecca used Google’s tools to improve the visualisation of a logging project proposed in her local area. Initially, affected residents were issued with a small, black and white map that was cartographically confusing and didn’t provide a real sense of the project’s impact.

Rebecca highlighted the 406 hectares of forest at stake, including old growth redwoods, on an interactive, 3D, image-draped terrain model. Suddenly local residents “got it” – the size of the area, its proximity to the places that were significant to them and how they would be impacted by the associated helicopter landing pads, logging truck traffic and a reduction in water quality due to catchment degradation. People realised through seeing a high-quality visualisation of the proposal that they were opposed to it and it was subsequently rejected. The area is on track to become protected as open public space.

Word spread. Other community and non-profit organisations approached Google for help to develop similar visualisations for their campaigns.

This was the beginning of Google Earth Outreach, where Google offers training, as well as data storage and processing power, to support campaigns around the world. Google has and continues to support visualisation, analysis and solutions in the service of causes such as environmental conservation, cultural preservation, disaster response, climate change and public health.

Further Google outreach involvement can be found here.

Unlocking the Landsat archive and creating cloud-free base imagery

Google Earth Engine was born of a request by Brazilian scientists for a tool that would enable them to monitor and measure changes detected on satellite imagery. The Engine project began with a review of currently available satellite data. At the time, data from the USA’s Landsat missions, which includes imagery of Earth collected continuously for over 40 years, was free, but relatively difficult for lay people to access. In 2009 Google started working with USGS to make this historic set of earth imagery available online to scientists, NGOs, civil society – anyone who could extract meaning from the pixels and turn them into knowledge.

Using the Earth Engine technology, Google sifted through over 2 million Landsat scenes (909 terabytes of data) to create one global mosaic for each year since 1984. Each image is 1.78 terapixels and each pixel provides the clearest view of that location for the year. Processing 29 years’ worth of Landsat imagery took more than 2 million hours of computation. Thanks to parallel processing over 66,000 computers, however, the task took only 1.5 days.

Google has made publicly available four lines of code used to create a composite image from a series, choosing each best pixel, so anyone can use multiple images of the same area to make a cloud and gap free composite. Thanks to this technique, the base image for Google Earth is now cloud-free.

The Google Earth Engine library makes available numerous other public data sets, including MODIS and terrain, land cover and atmospheric information.

Click here to view time-lapsed Landsat imagery of any part of the world.

Collaborating with Australia

As part of the White House Climate Data Initiative, Google has committed to develop a publicly-accessible world digital terrain model, using LiDar data contributed by governments and institutions around the world, for climate change monitoring and response. The Australian Government has contributed LiDAR data, recently collected by CRCSI and NGIS to monitor sea-level rise in the Pacific Islands, to this world DEM project.

Direct access to satellite imagery

With the acquisition of Skybox, the Google Earth Engine team can now task the satellites to capture imagery at the request of scientists and non-profit organisations. Moore is enthusiastic about this increased capacity to continue her team’s mission – to work with scientists and institutions around the world, gathering data and providing cloud computing, to present information to decision makers, so we can make more intelligent decisions about how we use Earth’s resources. Skybox intends to launch a constellation of 100 micro satellites over the coming years.


CRCSI Student Scholarships

The CRCSI currently supports 29 post-graduate and PhD students in the form of full and top-up scholarships. The purpose of the scholarships is to develop a strong cohort of students to tackle major challenges facing the spatial industry during their studies and then go on to strengthen capacity in the workforce after graduation.

Further details can be found on the CRCSI website.

Students interested in finding out more about the CRCSI scholarship program should contact Nathan Quadros, Education Manager on +61 3 9034 9180 or by email.

Conferences and Events

19 Aug 2015

GeoNext Conference