India's homegrown Global Positioning System (GPS), the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), alternatively named NavIC, is slated to be operational early in 2018.
At present, NavIC is being tested for its accuracy and is most likely to be available in the market for public use early next year.
The testing of the system includes ground verification and calibration of NavIC data so as to calculate its accuracy. In fact, many academic institutions across India are involved in the testing and calibration of data.
The Indian system is expected to be significantly more accurate than the GPS powered by American satellites. The American GPS with 24 satellites in a constellation has wider reach and covers the entire world, while NavIC with seven satellites covers only India and its surroundings.
With the NavIC system, India joins the likes of the United States of America, Russia, and the European Union.
Key highlights of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System
• NavIC, which means sailor in Sanskrit, is capable of providing terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, including vehicle tracking and fleet management, disaster management, visual and voice navigation.
• NavIC also stands for NAVigation with Indian Constellation.
• The system consists of a constellation of 3 satellites in Geostationary orbit (GEO), 4 satellites in Geosynchronous orbit (GSO), approximately 36000 kilometres altitude above earth surface, and two satellites on the ground as stand-by, in addition to ground stations.
• It was developed because access to foreign government-controlled global navigation satellite systems is not guaranteed in hostile situations, as happened to the Indian military in 1999 when it was dependent on the American Global Positioning System (GPS) during the Kargil War.
• The project to develop the system was approved by the Indian government in May 2006.
• The system will cover the entire country, Indian Ocean and its surroundings, with a reach till eastern parts of Arabian Peninsula in the west and up to some parts of China in the east. In the south, the system’s signals will work till Malaysia.
• It will provide standard positioning service to all users with a position accuracy of 5 metre.
• Unlike the GPS, NavIC system has dual frequency (S and L bands) allowing use of high and low frequency signals.
• The system will provide two levels of service, the standard positioning service will be open for civilian use, and a restricted service (an encrypted one) for authorized users (including the military).