Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like GPS, Galileo, GLONASS, and BeiDou have become indispensable technologies in our modern world. From smartphones to self-driving cars, accurate positioning and timing signals from GNSS satellites aloft enable a wide range of location-based services that billions of people rely on every day. However, traditional GNSS receivers have limitations in performance and coverage that can be overcome by leveraging cloud computing. Cloud-based GNSS promises enhanced accuracy, availability, integrity, and resilience to unlock new possibilities for navigation technologies in the years ahead.
The Limitations of Traditional GNSS
While GNSS has come a long way since the first experimental GPS satellites were launched in 1978, traditional receivers still face challenges. Stand-alone GNSS receivers are susceptible to signal blockages, interference, spoofing, and other impairments that degrade accuracy and availability. Urban canyons created by tall buildings, overpasses, tunnels and even dense foliage can obstruct satellite signals and cause positioning errors. Canyons, mountains, and other terrain blockages also impair signal reception, especially at low elevation angles. In addition, ionospheric disturbances, solar weather events, and other space phenomena can refract or scatter signals, leading to timing delays and ranging errors that reduce geospatial accuracy. Deliberate jamming and sophisticated spoofing of GNSS signals are also growing threats as location data becomes more vital for critical infrastructures and applications. The remote locations of some users, like in forests, at sea, or in northern latitudes, mean they need more visibility to enough GNSS satellites above the horizon for a robust position fix.
Traditional GNSS augmentation systems like SBAS and GBAS provide corrections and integrity monitoring to improve performance. However, their ground infrastructure is expensive to deploy and maintain while still needing more coverage areas, especially in remote regions. As user expectations and safety-critical navigation applications continue to advance, new approaches are required to overcome the constraints of stand-alone receivers and legacy augmentation systems.
The Promise of Cloud-Based GNSS
By leveraging cloud computing resources, GNSS capabilities can be expanded in ways not possible with conventional receivers. Cloud-GNSS moves signal processing and positioning calculations to powerful remote servers. Raw GNSS measurements are transmitted to the cloud, where networks of reference stations and advanced algorithms generate corrections, integrity monitoring, and other benefits:
Cloud processing can achieve real-time precise positioning down to centimetres without bulky local infrastructure by pooling data from thousands of worldwide reference stations. Multi-constellation processing further improves accuracy and availability.
Cloud servers can generate position solutions with expanded visibility to satellites overhead, even with limited sky views. Weak signals can also be detected and utilised.
Advanced Integrity Monitoring
Cloud servers can better detect spoofing, calculate protection levels, and provide robust integrity monitoring by analysing measurements across the constellation.
With data backup and redundancy, cloud-based GNSS maintains availability even when individual reference stations go down. The cloud can also continue delivering positioning when local receivers experience signal blockages.
With these advantages over stand-alone receivers, cloud-based GNSS unlocks new possibilities across many industries:
Centimeter-accurate positioning and integrity monitoring will help self-driving vehicles safely navigate and localise on the road.
Aviation and Drones
Precise 3D positioning will enhance takeoff and landing capabilities while resilience to interference protects critical navigation. Drones will fly safer with cloud-GNSS.
Cloud-GNSS brings centimetre-level accuracy to train control and automation, even in remote areas or underground tunnels.
Cloud offloading will enable mass-market smartphones and wearables to achieve precision positioning without expensive chips or antennas.
Cloud processing makes precise point positioning with integrity monitoring possible for monitoring earthquakes, volcanoes, and ground deformation over vast areas.
Resilient PNT from cloud GNSS will help ships navigate safely in GPS-denied waters and avoid collisions.
Realising the Future of Cloud-GNSS
While nascent, cloud-based augmentation of GNSS is poised to mature rapidly in the years ahead. Wider deployment of 5G networks will enable ubiquitous transmission of raw GNSS data to cloud servers. Edge computing can push processing to local facilities for low-latency response. And more intelligent machine learning algorithms like stormcaster will fully exploit the robust datasets in the cloud.
With transformative benefits across countless applications, cloud GNSS represents the future of satellite navigation. Unleashing the full potential of global navigation satellite constellations, cloud-based GNSS will navigate society into an era of next-generation positioning, timing, and situational awareness. The future is bright for harnessing the promise of the cloud to take global satellite systems to new heights.