Budget investment in GPS technology will help save lives

  • Hon Phil Twyford
  • Hon Eugenie Sage
Land Information Transport

Minister for Land Information, Eugenie Sage announced Budget 2019 funding for a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) which will help save lives and drive innovation, alongside Minister for Transport, Phil Twyford.

“I’m pleased to announce that the Government, alongside Australia, is investing in world leading technology to vastly improve the accuracy of GPS in New Zealand enabling faster and safer helicopter rescues and innovation in a range of emerging technologies,” says Eugenie Sage.

“Budget 2019 set aside nearly $2m ($1.99) for Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) to work with its Australian counterpart, Geoscience Australia to investigate ways to deliver a regional Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) to significantly improve GPS accuracy.” 

Visiting the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust the Ministers spoke to pilots about how the new technology will support emergency helicopter crews to make more accurate approaches, meaning they would be able to reach patients in challenging locations.

“Safety is our top transport priority and this technology will save lives,” says Phil Twyford.

“Improved GPS will provide rescue helicopter pilots with accurate vertical guidance for landing, meaning they can reach patients faster in difficult terrain and bad weather.”

“This technology will also improve the safety of self-driving cars in the future, where precise positioning information will allow safer navigation and help avoid collisions.”

GPS usually provides positioning information accurate to about 5-10 metres. This new system will improve the accuracy to less than a metre, and in some devices to 10 centimetres.

Investment in an SBAS strongly aligns with the Government’s Budget priority of supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation, social and economic opportunities. When fully implemented it is expected this technology will result in $1.47 billion worth of economic benefits to the New Zealand economy.

Other examples of SBAS applications in emerging technologies are :

  • virtual fencing where livestock in the future may wear GPS-enabled collars to stop them going where they are not supposed to – replacing some physical fences, keeping livestock out of waterways, and making grazing more efficient. 
  • workplace health and safety, particularly in the forestry sector, where more accurate GPS can alert workers using equipment to other people in the area.
  • navigating ships in confined waters.

This funding will allow LINZ and Geoscience Australia to jointly develop specifications and undertake initial procurement processes. Once a preferred provider for delivering SBAS has been identified, approval to release further funding will be sought to implement a regional SBAS.

“New Zealand and Australia are working together on the initiative so both countries can share costs and reduce duplication of effort in the region,” says Eugenie Sage.