Before, GPS systems had a precision of meters, but soon that precision will be centimeters
A few months ago Occurred a landslide in Leijiashan, in China’s Hunan province. Twelve days before their rulers received a warning message: the Chinese geopositioning system, BeiDou, warned that it had detected signs of a possible incident of that type.
That notice allowed the damage to be only material: the lives of all its inhabitants were saved thanks to a system that is able to differentiate a change in terrain the size of a pencil tip at 21,000 km altitude. The implications of that precision are remarkable.
GPS is fine, Galileo and BeiDou are even better
They had it recently en Technology Review, where they talked about the fact that there are already several Chinese towns that have monitoring systems before natural disasters of this type.
Global geopositioning systems such as BeiDou, GPS or Galileo are receiving a series of critical improvements and updates to improve precision, which was previously counted by meters and is gradually measured in centimeters.
This improvement in precision will allow to carry out tasks that until now were much more complicated, and for example simplify the deployment of autonomous cars, they will have a much more precise notion of where they are (including the lane within a road) to act on that precise data.
The system GPS which began operating in 1993 —the 24 satellites that comprise it began to be launched 15 years earlier— have an accuracy of between five and ten meters, but said network is in the process of being updated: the GPS III system will still take some time to be fully operational — four of the 10 satellites that will comprise it have been launched, the rest will be put into orbit in 2023—, but will reduce that accuracy to 3 meters.
BeiDou is even more accurate: its 44 satellites operate in three different orbits and offer positioning services with a precision that oscillates between one and a half meters and two meters in general. In specific areas of Asia such as China, however, users can get close to a meter accuracy.
The same happens with Galileo, the geopositioning system created by the European Union and which is already providing service – although for now don’t set too much– through 22 of its 26 satellites. The accuracy is better than that of GPS, reaching less than one meter in some cases, and even in the case of high-precision service with encrypted signals, position detection can be accurate to 20cm.
Towards millimeter accuracies and quantum positioning
These systems use various techniques to further improve accuracy and bring it to centimeter levels. Options like Real-Time Kinematik (RTK) and Precise Point Positioning (PPP) are helping, and in China they are even beginning to combine them to make accuracy even better for years to come.
There is already talk of how these systems will be able in the future get close to millimeter accuracies, but that seems to be the limit. Experts want to go further and avoid dependence on satellites and that is where alternatives for interiors would come into play how are you or, even more important, the quantum properties of matter that allow them to be located and guided without the need for external references.
That quantum positioning can be very useful if we do not have information from the GPS systems (as occurs in the space or under water), but also can be an auxiliary system for autonomous cars in case the GPS / BeiDou / Galileo systems are not working properly.
In fact one of these systems in a very preliminary phase it’s already working on the International Space Station. The advances are therefore remarkable, and as we have seen its practical implications can be really remarkable.