The story of NaVIC -- Home grown alternative to navigation


We all use GPS, the Global Positioning System made by the US. It provides time and location-based information to a GPS receiver, located anywhere on or near the earth surface.

Do you know in India we have our very own system of navigation which is more accurate?

The IRNSS(Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) which is officially called NaVIC, Navigation with Indian Constellation, the regional geo positioning system, is designed in India by ISRO to cover the mainland of India. It became operational in 2018 after 7 years of rigorous testing.

Launched between 2014 and 2018, India uses seven satellites to provide real-time positioning and timing services in mainland India, extending up to 1,500 km from the country's borders i.e. to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and some northern parts of China too. Of the seven satellites used by NaVIC at present, three are in the geostationary orbit and four in the geosynchronous orbit.

The Need

When the US government denied India the crucial information on Pakistani troops’ position in Kargil in1999, a need to build an indigenous satellite navigation system was felt.

Working Mechanism

At any instant, there are at least 4 GPS satellites that send information about its position and the current time to a receiver. Each one has three Rubidium Atomic clocks which are essentially the device to calculate the distance, time, and your precise position on Earth using radio frequencies. These signals are then used to find the receiver's 3-D position(latitude, longitude, and altitude).

Uses

The IRNSS was developed for terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, integration with mobile phones, precise timing for ATMs and power grids, mapping and geodetic data capture. It was made mandatory for all commercial vehicles in India in 2019.

Advantages

· NaVIC satellites always maintain the direct line of sight with India — unlike GPS — which results in highly precise geolocation, faster latching, and more penetration in dense areas.

· NaVIC uses L5 band to provide a standard positioning system(SPS) for civilian purposes and a restricted service(RS) in encrypted form for the military using the S frequency band.

· Like any other GNSS, NaVIC provides the location data to map applications like Google Maps.

· Its very high speed makes it very flexible & we will soon find this system in every industry sector.

· Since NaVIC satellites operate at a higher orbit — approx 35k km above the Earth’s surface, signals can’t be blocked by mountains or forests.

Why is NaVIC not used in India?

As NaVIC doesn’t have the L-1 band at present on which most of the 4G chipsets are based, it is not available for public use. By 2024-25, ISRO plans to launch satellites having L1 band.

Access Test

On your Android phone, download apps such as GPSTest and GNSSTest from the Play Store and tap on “Start Test”. If the app shows Indian satellites, it means your phone has NaVIC support.

Navigation Satellite Systems of other countries:

1. GPS (United States)– Constellation of 32 satellites. It is the world's most used GPS system, operational from 1978.

2. GLONASS(Russia) – Constellation of 24 satellites.

3. Galileo(European Union) – Constellation of 30 satellites, became operational in 2016

4. BeiDou(Chinese) – Constellation of 44 satellites

5. Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS-Japan) – It is a regional satellite system covering Japan and Asia-Oceania region.

Future Plans a) As a short-term plan, India plans to add five more satellites. In the long run, IRNSS will have 24 satellites to provide global navigation service and it would be called Global Indian Navigation System.

b) The government is said to be pushing manufacturers to enable NaVIC on all new smartphones. Almost all of the new chipsets, including the latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1(by Qualcomm) and Dimensity 9000(by MediaTek), have built-in support for NaVIC.

c) NaVIC-based trackers have been made compulsory on commercial vehicles in India, so all future vehicles are going to sport the indigenous NaVIC system.

Though still in its nascent stage, NaVIC is set to storm the world in the near future as reported by the Indian scientists and industry experts who are leaving no stone unturned in making it the next big thing as part of ‘ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT’.

The quest for self-dependency is ON!

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