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New Zealand Starts Construction on SouthPAN Uplink Centre


Land Information Minister, Damien O’Connor, has announced the start of construction on New Zealand’s first uplink centre for the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SouthPAN) at a recent event in Southland. The move will bring the country closer to world-class satellite positioning services that can enhance search and rescue operations, improve precision farming, and increase safety on construction sites by providing greater accuracy.

According to O’Connor, it will be the first time Satellite Augmented Positioning has been available in the Southern Hemisphere and is expected to benefit the economy by over $860 million in the long term. SouthPAN will boost the accuracy, reliability, and availability of positioning services to as little as 10 centimetres (like GPS). This represents a considerable improvement from the current accuracy range of five to ten metres.

SouthPAN is an open-access digital infrastructure that offers entrepreneurs the chance to develop new services and accelerate economic growth. It provides free access to early Open Services, which allow farmers and growers to leverage invisible fences and drone-based spraying techniques for the effective management of their livestock and crops.

The Minister explained that in five years, SouthPAN will allow helicopters and planes to fly safely in weather they are not able to fly in now, minimising disruption due to adverse weather conditions. Furthermore, SouthPAN’s technology will also provide virtual barriers that enhance safety in various industries, such as construction, protecting people from heavy machinery and other potential hazards.

The benefits of SouthPAN’s technology are expected to be widespread, ranging from simple conveniences like providing an accurate location for taxi services to more significant applications, such as improved monitoring of endangered species across conservation areas. The increased precision and reliability of SouthPAN’s services will open new possibilities for a wide range of industries, allowing for better decision-making and more effective operations.

Two 11-metre antennae are being built by a private project contractor at a satellite ground station in Awarua. They will link to a control centre in Invercargill, monitored by operators 24 hours a day.

The country’s future export growth relies on lifting its sustainability credentials, and SouthPAN will help farmers and growers with precision through the application of inputs and improved livestock management, O’Connor noted. “By telling us exactly where we are, SouthPAN will help us tell a story of who we are and how we farm.” SouthPAN is a joint venture with the Australian government to bring high-resolution positioning to Australasia.

The move to launch SouthPAN was announced in September last year. Australia’s Minister for Resources, Madeleine King, had explained that the investment is a major commitment between the Australian and New Zealand governments, providing broad benefits for all of Australasia. “We’ve already demonstrated that industry and the community can use this for ground-breaking applications that increase safety, improve productivity, and drive innovation across a broad range of industries,” King stated.

As OpenGov Asia reported, SouthPAN could generate over AUD$6 billion in benefits to the Australian economy over the next 30 years. The network will enable mining companies to install more accurate collision avoidance systems on automated mining haul trucks or allow visually impaired citizens to navigate cities with pinpoint assistive technologies. Further, it will enable light aircraft to land more safely in remote rural areas in all weather conditions, bringing benefits for essential services such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the communities they serve.


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