University academics have devised a satellite navigation programme for the UK to replace the EU’s Galileo system after Brexit.
In a paper published in the Journal of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Professor Chris Chatwin of the University of Sussex and Dr Lasisi Lawal Salami from the Obasanjo Space Center in Nigeria put forward their aim to provide an alternative to Galileo, which is set to launch in 2026. The proposal comprises a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) to be hosted by a national satellite as a Navigation Overlay Service (NOS); academics say it would cost around £300 million (€344.52 million) and would fulfil the UK’s satellite navigation needs in the defence, aviation and maritime sectors, as well as providing essential location-based service information for the emergency services.
The programme laid out in the proposal, including the launch of three geostationary satellites to allow for global navigational coverage, an augmentation system acting as a payload on a national satellite and on-ground infrastructure to support the satellite system, is projected to take a year to complete. The paper suggests the programme would provide up to five times more accuracy than Galileo and reach equivalent levels of integrity and reliability.
Professor Chatwin, Professor in Engineering at the University of Sussex, said: “Our system can use the GPS or Galileo free signal or both and augments it to give it a more accurate signal that is comparable to the encrypted military signal. The augmentation system has extremely accurate clocks so it provides an additional signal to the GPS signal and reduces the ambiguity of the location determination. If we use augmentation we can greatly reduce costs from £7 billion to £300 million, but we still depend on the US or the EU for their free signal. In the end this is a decision about sovereignty. If we still believe that we are an independent military power, then we’d have to find considerable resources to build our own GNSS [global navigation satellite system]. We could call it Newton.”
Prime Minister Theresa May pulled the UK out of the £9 billion (€10 billion) Galileo programme in November 2018 due to the impact of Brexit preparations on security relations within the project. The UK has contributed £1.2 billion (€1.38 billion) to Galileo; and while it is likely to still receive a basic Galileo signal once the project is completed, after the UK leaves the EU it will be excluded from the more precise and military applications of the programme.
Dr Lasisi, a former University of Sussex PhD student and Vice Convenor of the UN’s International Telecommunication Union, said: “A partnership with Nigeria would have the additional benefit of signalling to the rest of the world that the UK has become a more outward looking economy after Brexit and opens up the opportunity for further scientific collaboration with the rest of the world beyond the EU.”