It’s one of the biggest seismic shifts in the geodesy landscape, and the groundwork is being laid for it right now. We’re referring, of course, to the 2020 update of the Australian Geospatial Reference System.
Don’t have the foggiest as to what we’re talking about?
For surveyors and other spatial specialists, the Australian Geospatial Reference System is a really big deal. In fact, it’s a big deal for everyone – so much of what everyday people do, how we live and where we go is impacted by this system, even if not everyone has heard of it.
With the Australian Geospatial Reference System about to undergo a much-needed revamp, now is a good time to learn all about it and why it impacts surveying.
What is it?
The Australian Geospatial Reference System is used by experts to define latitude, longitude, height, orientation and gravity throughout Australia. It is made up of geometric and physical components. These can include, amongst other things, datums (or coordinate systems) and complex infrastructure (including a national network of Global Navigation Satellite System Continuously Operating Reference Stations).
Crucially, this Australian Geospatial Reference System is required for 4D positioning. This is impactful for everything from our smartphone to our aeroplanes.
It used to be that only spatial specialists and surveyors would rely on the Australian Geospatial Reference System, when they were making calculations and analysing or processing spatial data. In the 21stcentury though, every mobile phone leans on this system. On top of that, more and more technological innovations, tied to countless industries, are drawing on the Australian Geospatial Reference System. In order to give optimal performance, the demand is constant for accuracy.
As such, it’s important to maintain the system. That’s why Nick Brown, the Director of National Geodesy at Geoscience Australia and one of the country’s foremost experts on this upcoming project, is presenting a series of webinars that will go a long way to explaining and demystifying the Reference System.
What is the upgrade about?
To explain, let’s talk a little bit about the Geocentric Datum of Australia.
Each country has something called a datum. A datum is a series of geographical reference points and their coordinate system of latitudes and longitudes. Australia currently relies on a datum that was set in place in 1994 known as Geocentric Datum of Australia 1994, or GDA94.
However, the planet has changed a fair bit in the last 25 years. One of the ways that it has changed is the subtle movements of the earth’s tectonic plates. This is important because GDA94 is locked onto the tectonic plate that Australia is on – which has actually moved more than 1.5m in the last 25 years. This means that the positioning data from GDA94 doesn’t always measure up to the GPS and GNSS systems our day-to-day systems rely on, which are locked onto the centre of the earth.
The solution? The establishment of a new datum, GDA2020. This is the update of the plate-fixed datum to reflect where Australia will be in 2020. Then, from 2020, the experts will be able to implement a datum that keeps Australia in line with GPS technology.
With geographic data becoming more and more important in delivering services, the need to upgrade the datum is being more pressing. After all, it’s a lot more difficult for our cars to stay on the right road if the satellite navigation systems they rely on are drawing on geographic information that’s not as accurate as possible.
For surveyors, this change is an important one to be aware of, as surveyors utilise data from GDA94 when measuring and recording location data. This is a key part of regular surveyor tasks like determining land subdivisions.
Nick Brown thinks that this upgrade will make it easier for more innovators across a range of fields to come up with clever ways of using accurate location data. “Pokemon Go is a great example of how you can ‘gamify’ positioning technology,” he told Spatial Source. “This is just one example of a company who has done very well from having a GPS chip in a mobile devices. We want to encourage more of that. I am keen to see what innovative ideas people come up with.”
Want to know more?
The chance to get a full and robust understanding of this important step forward for the country lies with the series of engaging webinars Nick has developed. Two have been made public to date – you can catch up on them ahead of the next two webinar dates by heading here.
To learn more about the Geocentric Datum of Australia 2020, you can visit this page on our website.