While there hasn’t been a new satellite launch in recent days for the BeiDou satellite constellation, the system is still slated to be available globally in 2020 with 35 total satellites. Launched back in 2000, the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is China’s government sponsored global positioning system with 14 currently usable satellites. The Chinese government is in the process of reviewing the performance of the existing satellites before any further launches, so current coverage is limited to the East Asia region.
In the mining industry getting reliable GPS service is always important and for mines running equipment that use GPS for high-precision applications it’s even more vital. While the reliability of GPS has improved greatly in recent years, there are many mines around the world that still struggle with lost signals, especially in mines with deep pits or those located in regions where satellites may not make regular passes. When the BeiDou system eventually reaches its full potential mines will be able to set up their GNSS units to use any of the major constellations, including BeiDou, giving them much more coverage than was previously available.
Beyond better coverage the newer BeiDou satellites contain newer technology, and that technology is expected to offer greater accuracy than the current U.S. and Russian systems. Since the system is still fairly young there hasn’t yet been any comprehensive reporting on the effectiveness of the satellites, so it may be some time before we know whether or not the system will live up to Chinese claims.
The Chinese system won’t be the only new system in the sky as the European Galileo system which will consist of 30 satellites is also currently in development and is planned to be fully functional in 2019.
To take advantage of the new constellations mines will need to have compatible equipment installed, and for most mines that will mean updating to systems that are compatible with the newer BeiDou and Galileo signals. While 2020 may seem like a long way off, it’s never too early to begin planning for upgrades that will have a positive effect on operations.