The University of Nottingham is working with Brazilian and EU partners to solve atmospheric interference problems that hamper satellite-based positioning in equatorial countries like Brazil.
The research network will support the advancement of precision agriculture, which aims to make crop farming practices cheaper, greener, and more efficient, using satellite positioning and remote sensing.
These technologies rely on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) — such as the U.S. GPS and the new European equivalent, Galileo — to obtain centimetre-accurate coordinates on Earth. Farmers then use this real-time precise data to optimize fertilizer use, to steer driverless machinery, and for soil mapping to maximize crop production in a bid to feed an ever-rising world population.
Despite its revolutionary potential, precision agriculture adoption rates in countries on equatorial regions such as Brazil are hindered by specific phenomena in the earth’s upper atmosphere (the ionosphere), known as ionospheric scintillation.
Ionospheric scintillation affects the integrity, availability, and accuracy of satellite positioning. Specifically, it causes interference with the propagation of satellite signals as they pass through the ionosphere, making it difficult for GNSS receivers to lock onto satellites and track their signals. This results in not only large errors but at times to complete service outages.
“The strong signal fluctuations that characterize ionospheric scintillation are caused by the irregular behavior of the ionosphere that is typical of the equatorial latitudes, affecting most of the Brazilian territory, hence the importance of the bi-lateral collaboration in the PEARL network,” explains project leader, Dr. Marcio Aquino from the Nottingham Geospatial Institute at the University.