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Tallysman and Mouser Electronics partner to distribute GNSS antennas

Tallysman Wireless has announced a distribution partnership with Mouser Electronics, a global authorized distributor of electronic components and semiconductors.

Under the agreement, Mouser Electronics will offer Tallysman’s full range of GNSS antennas, including the Accutenna, VeroStar and helical antennas, to its users worldwide.

These antennas feature advanced technology for enhanced precision and signal quality, making them suitable for demanding applications in industries such as automotive, aerospace, defense, surveying and precision agriculture.

For more information about the Tallysman GNSS antenna solutions offered at Mouser Electronics, click here.

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Seabed 2030 Project and NORBIT Oceans collaborate on global ocean mapping

The Nippon Foundation­—General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) Seabed 2030 Project has partnered with NORBIT Oceans, a provider of underwater imaging and mapping technology. The organizations aim to advance the field of ocean science and obtain a complete map of the entire ocean floor.

Under the partnership, NORBIT Oceans will strengthen the capabilities of the Seabed 2030 Project and its network by providing solutions involving bathymetric survey data sets, research voyages, and general survey activities.

A collaborative project between the Nippon Foundation and GEBCO, the Seabed 2030 Project aims to inspire the complete mapping of the world’s oceans by 2030, and to compile all the data into the freely available GEBCO Ocean Map. GEBCO is a joint program of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and is the only organization with a mandate to map the entire ocean floor.

With a focus on providing technology solutions to global maritime markets, NORBIT Oceans is one of three segments within the global technology company NORBIT ASA, based in Norway. NORBIT Oceans offers solutions for seafloor mapping, environmental monitoring, tailored products for the aquaculture and security markets, as well as customized cables.

All data collected and shared with the Seabed 2030 Project is included in the free and publicly available GEBCO global grid.

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KP Performance Antennas releases line of IoT antennas


Image: KP Performance Antennas

KP Performance Antennas, an Infinite Electronics brand and a manufacturer of wireless network antennas, has released internet of things (IoT) multiband combination antennas. The antennas are designed to enhance connectivity for vehicle fleets and base stations.

The IoT multiband combination antennas have dedicated ports for cellular, Wi-Fi and GPS bands. They are also indoor and outdoor IP69K rated and can withstand harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme temperatures, water and dust.

The antennas are suitable for transportation emergency response and agriculture applications.

KP Performance Antennas’ IoT multiband combination antennas are in-stock and available now.

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Hexagon | NovAtel releases firmware with PTP functionality

Hexagon | NovAtel has released the 7.09.00 firmware with a precise timing protocol (PTP) feature, enabling users to synchronize accurate time from GNSS with other devices and sensors on a shared network.

The 7.09.00 firmware’s PTP feature brings stable timing to a user’s other sensor systems connected through a local network to best support positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) and automotive and autonomous applications.

The firmware includes SPAN GNSS+INS technology improvements — including a secondary INS solution for built-in redundancy and reliability in challenging conditions. The enhancements are available on all OEM7 cards and enclosures, including all PwrPak7 and CPT7 enclosures variants.

The 7.09.00 firmware also features improvements to the time to first fix, a secondary SPAN solution for a more accurate and reliable GNSS+INS output and more.

The 7.09.00 firmware is not for precision agriculture applications and is not supported on NovAtel’s SMART antenna products.

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XTEND acquires Performance Rotors


Image: XTEND

XTEND has acquired Performance Rotors, a Singapore-based UAV inspection company. This acquisition will improve XTEND’s ability to offer human-guided, remote interactive operations in a range of inspection scenarios.

“Performance Rotors’ mission has always been to develop UAVs and robotics solutions for data acquisition in GPS-denied and confined space environments, without the risk to human lives,” Keith Ng, co-founder and CEO of Performance Rotors, said. “We are confident that combining XTEND’s innovation XOS software with our world-class technology brings the best of the industry together in one powerful and easy to use solution that comprehensively addresses the critical challenges facing our customers today.”

XTEND provides human-guided autonomous machine systems that enable operators to perform accurate maneuvers and actions in any environment with minimal training. Its XOS operating system enables practical autonomy allowing professionals to control UAVs and smart machines that carry out complex tasks that require human interaction and decision-making safely and remotely.

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UK considering eLoran broadcast licenses


The United Kingdom’s spectrum agency, Ofcom, is seeking comments on its proposal to issue licenses for broadcasting eLoran signals and services. This initiative comes, it says, after the agency was “…approached with a request to authorize use of the 90-110 kHz spectrum for the provision of a long-range navigation system, based on eLoran technology.” Issuing licenses could be a way to treat all interested parties fairly.

After briefly describing the importance of positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services to modern life, the Ofcom request for comment observes: “Satellite-based PNT systems like the Global Positioning System (GPS) can be susceptible to interference and can be vulnerable to space weather events. The eLoran technology provides a terrestrial-based alternative … which could in [the] future act as a supplementary or back-up system to GPS. [I]t has the potential to support innovation in the delivery of resilient PNT.”

This rationale is quite similar to that cited by other governments operating Loran-like systems around the world.

Until now, with a few minor exceptions, only government entities and those working on their behalf have been authorized to use the frequency. Such licenses would authorize holders to broadcast eLoran in the 90 kHz to 110 kHz band, which is the portion of spectrum reserved internationally for radio navigation.

From October 2014 to December 2015, the UK had an operational eLoran network serving the waters off its east coast and authorized for maritime use. That system was discontinued when France and Norway bowed to pressure from supporters of Europe’s Galileo system, which was still in development. The UK Ministry of Defence still broadcasts a single eLoran signal from Anthorn, UK, that can be used as a wireless timing source.

Several other nations currently broadcast some version of Loran in the 90 kHz to 110 kHz band. These include PNT systems operated by South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China. Reports indicate Iran is also broadcasting in the spectrum, though other details remain unclear.

Unconfirmed reports from amateur radio operators in the United States seem to indicate that testing of Loran-like signals in the 90 kHz to 11 0kHz band has been conducted in North America periodically over the last 10 years.

Until now, the UK has only formally authorized eLoran and the frequency for maritime use. Observers in the UK say this Ofcom initiative will almost certainly expand that to its use everywhere and for multiple applications, such as timing for critical infrastructure.

Ofcom says, “[d]eployment of eLoran in the UK could complement existing PNT services, particularly in locations where there is poor GPS coverage or weak signals, like tunnels or deep inside buildings. eLoran could also provide resilience (i.e., back-up) for satellite-based systems against interference, jamming and spoofing, thereby aiding protection of key national infrastructure…”

This Ofcom notice may be the first official move toward encouraging one or more entirely commercial eLoran services.

Commercial wide-area PNT services capable of protecting critical infrastructure and national economies have long faced an uphill battle, though.

Several industry leaders have commented that “it’s impossible to compete with free GNSS!”

The same leaders have also criticized the U.S. government for not “walking the talk” when it comes to resilient PNT. At a U.S. Department of Transportation meeting last year they urged the government to not just tell others, but to set an example and protect itself with resilient PNT services. Doing so, they said, would show industry and users the government is serious and instill confidence that commercial services were reliable and would be sustained.

Yet, experts cite a “chicken and egg” problem.

“The government can’t subscribe to services that don’t exist, and companies can’t stand up and provide nation-wide services without having an anchor-customer first,” according to an industry insider.

To solve this dilemma, public-private-partnerships have been proposed over the years in both the UK and the United States. To date, a willing “public” or government partner has yet to be identified for either nation.

This might be changing in the UK government with growing awareness about the limitations of and threats to GNSS and other space systems. While a national strategy for PNT has been promised for years and is yet to be published, a cross-government PNT office has recently been established.

“The UK is in a great position to lead the world on resilient PNT,” said one observer at a recent Royal Institute of Navigation event. “The key is working with GPS and other GNSS, while at the same time ensuring your nation has its own sovereign system independent of space. We (in the UK) have deep expertise and experience at the GLA (General Lighthouse Authority) with eLoran, and we have a superb tech economy. Britain could be the world’s leading producer of a resilient PNT tech stack that includes eLoran transmitters, receivers that use GNSS, eLoran, and other signals or phenomena, and all the supporting gear and IP (intellectual property) to make it all work.”

“Realizing that vision will take a bit more government leadership than just issuing a few broadcast licenses, though,” they said.

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SSC completes final delivery of second payload to Japan for hosting on QZSS

Space Systems Command (SSC) has successfully delivered the second and final spaceflight-ready payload to Japan, bolstering the contribution by the U.S. Space Force (USSF) to integrated deterrence in the region.

The two USSF payloads, developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratories, will be hosted on Japan’s GEO-based Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS). The deliveries of both payloads to Japan follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two nations in December 2020.

This effort aims to demonstrate the ability of the U.S.-Japan alliance to extend to space; contribute toward the Department of Defense’s broader integrated deterrence posture against shared adversaries in the Indo-Pacific theatre; contribute to the USSF’s Space Domain Awareness; and provide a basis for future opportunities with international partners.

The hosted payloads will augment the USSF’s ability to conduct persistent, time-dominant volume search at geosynchronous orbit. Launch dates for the host satellites, QZS-6 and QZS-7, have not yet been announced.

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Unicore releases multi-application RTK module

Image: Unicore Communications

Image: Unicore Communications

Unicore Communications has released a GNSS, high precision, real-time kinematic (RTK) module, the UM960. This module can be used for a wide range of applications, such as robotic mowers, deformation monitoring, UAVs, handheld GIS, and more.

It features a high position fix rate and provides accurate and reliable GNSS positioning data. The UM960 module supports BDS B1I/B2I/B3I/B1c/B2a*, GPS L1/L2/L5, Galileo E1/E5b/E5a, GLONASS G1/G2, and QZSS L1/L2/L5. The module also has 1,408 channels.

In addition to its small size, the UM960 features low power consumption — less than 450 mW. The UM960 also supports single point positioning and RTK positioning data output at 20 Hz.

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Inside the box: GNSS antenna designs

sea level changes are monitored using a VeraChoke antenna at a GNSS observing station in Canada.

Sea level changes are monitored using a VeraChoke antenna at a GNSS observing station in Canada. (Image: Natural Resources Canada)

All antennas for global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) receivers serve the same fundamental function: to capture, filter, amplify the observed signals and relay them to the receiver. For high precision applications, certain design techniques allow for more accurate signal acquisition. These techniques involve the three main components of a GNSS antenna: the radiating element, additional ground plane, and the radio frequency (RF) frontend also called low noise amplifier (LNA).

Ceramic Patch Antennas

First, we will look at the antenna radiating element. Let us look at a common style of antenna that you might see in a surveying rover, a “patch” and associated ground plane. The patch, typically a metalized square or disk printed on a dielectric substrate, set in the middle of the ground plane, can have one or more feed points connecte to the RF frontend. For certain applications we may use only one feed point, which yields a narrow bandwidth; in other words, the circular polarization bandwidth of a single feed patch is very narrow. Single feed patches are then generally used for GPS L1-only applications. With two or more feed points, the circular polarization of the antenna is drastically improved over wider bandwidth. Putting it simply, for a two feed point antenna, the orthogonal currents flowing on the metalized surface of the patch are detected independently in both axes, one feed for each axis. The two signals are then combined using a 90 degrees hybrid coupler to reconstruct the GNSS information from the satellite. To cover multiple bands, such as L1 and L2, or L1 and L5, multiple patches can be stacked together.

Precision and Helicals

High performance dual feed patch antennas typically deliver phase information error of about 10 mm, though that does not mean you cannot achieve any higher. Depending on design specifics, other antenna technologies can achieve even higher precision. Helical antennas, another common design, yield a precision of at least 5 mm. They are taller than patch antennas, with a coil of four metallic elements pointing upwards. A key advantage is that helical antennas are less impacted by the absence of ground plane and still mitigate multipath interference in such a situation. Although being exceptionally light, a clear disadvantage of helical antennas is their height. However, a reduced height version of the technology is being developed that performs on par to the original technology.

Higher Accuracy

The key to even higher precision, down to an accuracy of less than 1 mm, is in the design of the individual components of the antenna element. Traditionally, the highest performing elements are quite sophisticated and difficult to manufacture, therefore they are quite expensive, and can be in limited supply. For certain legacy geodetic antennas, typically built into a choke ring, the element alone might cost several thousand dollars. We have taken inspiration from these designs and developed variations that have been able to deliver higher performance at a much lower cost.

Crossed Dipole Antennas

One of those approaches is an element that uses two wide band crossed dipoles mounted at 90 degrees from each other. The dipoles are connected directly to the RF frontend. Again, we combine two linearly polarized components through a 90 degrees phase coupler to reconstruct the right hand circular signal. Using RF engineering techniques these dipoles are coupled to other antenna element components, such as metalized “petals”, to improve or enhance performance in various ways. These enhancements include a wider bandwidth enabling the coverage of the entire GNSS spectrum, a more favorable radiation pattern; high low-elevation gain, and higher gain at zenith. This technology is the basis of our VeroStar, VeraPhase, and VeraChoke lines of antennas.

the rate of crustal motion is estimated using data collected by a VeraChoke antenna at a GNSS observing station at Rankin Inlet, Canada.

The rate of crustal motion is estimated using data collected by a VeraChoke antenna at a GNSS observing station at Rankin Inlet, Canada. (Image: Natural Resources Canada)

Ground plane and ChokeRings

Two additional elements that enhance certain antennas’ performance are ground planes and choke rings. An antenna does not necessarily need an external ground plane, a prime example being helical antennas. However, some antennas, such as patches, perform optimally with one. A choke ring is often used to attenuate signals from the horizon or below it, which are generally unwanted signals as they are typically due to multipath. To an extent, the concentric rings of a choke ring create a highly resistive surface for any low-elevation signals. Beyond the physical and electrical design aspects of the antenna, remaining interference from multipath may be mitigated algorithmically in the receiver.

RF Frontend

Coming after the radiating element is the RF frontend, another key component of high precision antennas. RF frontends include amplifier stages — which, as the name implies, amplify signals — and filters, such as ceramic or surface acoustic wave (SAW) filters, which reduce out-of-band signals while allowing in-band signals through. The GNSS signals from space are very weak and need to be amplified, often by a factor of 1,000 or more. There are two techniques for using filters: pre-filtering and in-line filtering. Pre-filters come before the first amplifier stage and prevent in band harmonics. In today’s congested RF spectrum, nearby signals or their harmonics can affect the RF frontend to the point that a non-prefiltered antenna will put the whole GNSS system at risk. A pre-filter mitigates this, but there is no free ride. Including a pre-filter in the RF frontend slightly increases the noise figure, which will slightly reduce the receiver signal-to-noise ratio (C/N0). However, a pre-filtered antenna will ensure the GNSS system to continue to operate in the presence of interference. Filters may also be applied between amplifier stages to further attenuate out-of-band interference.

In conclusion, a GNSS antenna is the optimal sum of three components: a well-designed radiating element, carefully selected external ground plane, and a high performing RF frontend. Technologies and models are available for every specific application that may arise. For example, patches are good general purpose antennas with a low-profile, helicals are lightweight and operate well without a ground plane, and crossed dipole antennas are ideal full GNSS rover and base station applications.

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WGIC announces executive board members and president for 2023-25

Image: WGIC

Image: WGIC

The World Geospatial Industry Council (WGIC) at its annual general meeting announced the members of its board who will serve from May 2023 to April 2025. The board is comprised of 20 senior geospatial industry professionals drawn from WGIC’s patron, corporate and associate member companies. The board will provide strategic guidance to WGIC in pursuing its mission and achieving its programmatic goals during the next two years.

WGIC Executive Board Members

  1. Theo Agelopoulos, Senior Director (Autodesk)
  2. Zubran Solaiman, Director (Bentley Systems)
  3. John Renard, President (Cyient)
  4. Bushra Zaman, Director (Deep Spatial)
  5. Elshan Musayev, EKM Global
  6. Dean Angelides, Corporate Director — international (Esri)
  7. Robert Hoddenbach, Global Director (Fugro)
  8. Jean-Francois Gauthier, Vice President (GHGSat)
  9. Adina Gillespie, Vice President (Hexagon)
  10. Steven Sawdon, Director (IIC Technologies)
  11. Paul Granito, Senior Vice President (Maxar Technologies)
  12. Harsh Govind, Principal Product Manager (Microsoft)
  13. Jayant Sharma, Senior Director (Oracle)
  14. Agnieszka Lukaszczyk, Vice President (Planet)
  15. James Van Rens, Senior Vice President (RIEGL International)
  16. Willy Govender, CEO (Terra Analytics)
  17. Marius Swanepoel, Director (TomTom)
  18. Bryn Fosburgh, Senior Vice President (Trimble)
  19. Joseph Seppi, Senior Vice President (Woolpert)
  20. Sanjay Kumar, CEO (Honorary Member) (Geospatial World)

The bi-annual election for the office of WGIC president has witnessed a unanimous vote for Bryn Fosburgh, Senior Vice President, Trimble. Brian Nicholls, Vice President — Asia Pacific, Woolpert, was elected unopposed as the treasurer. To ensure business continuity, John Renard, President, Cyient — Europe, will continue as secretary general till April 2024.

For more information, click here.