How And Why India Created Its Own GPS

With the political hullabaloo that constantly takes up most of the prime-time news, it’s quite likely that many people will miss the news about the Indian GPS system. In fact, we bet that until now, many of you weren’t even aware of ISRO’s decade-long project to introduce the country’s very own navigational system that could give the West a go for their money. Going by the name NavIC, the system has been in works for the past two decades, and will soon be made public for use. What propelled Indians to challenge the West with their own GPS system is an interesting tale. 

It all happened during the infamous Kargil War in 1999. It was reported that the Pakistani troop had infiltrated and took positions in the Kargil region. The Indian military then sought to make use of GPS (navigation) data of the area to accordingly place the soldiers. The space-based navigation system managed by the US, with its accurate data, would have been conducive for India. However, they denied help. This incident triggered the necessity to have one’s own navigational system and hence, began the strenuous long process to create the country’s very own GPS system.  

indian gps
Image Courtesy: Twitter

After two decades of spouting seven satellites in the space, here we are, on the brink of successfully launching NavIC, India’s very own navigation system! The name NavIC stands for ‘Navigation with Indian Constellation’ and was coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The system will soon be launched and promoted for public use. “Request for Proposal (RFP) has been called to start the implementation of NavIC so that the platform can be rolled out and popularised,” states the IT secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney.

The NavIC only covers India and its surrounding region and is touted to be a befitting competition to the American GPS system. Some reports boast that it is even more accurate than the American GPS system! The primary positive of NavIC is its ability to provide positioning to users with a position accuracy of 5 meters. The GPS also has a position accuracy of 20-30 meters. More perks that come along with the navigational system include terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, vehicle tracking and fleet management, disaster management, mapping and geodetic data capture, visual and voice navigation for drivers. 

Speaking on its functions and technology used, Tapan Misra, the director of Ahmedabad-based Space Application Centre (SAC) explained, “Our system has a dual frequency (S and L bands). GPS is dependent only on L band. When a low-frequency signal travels through the atmosphere, its velocity changes due to atmospheric disturbances. US banks on the atmospheric model to assess frequency error and it has to update this model from time to time to assess the exact error. In India’s case, we measure the difference in delay of dual frequency (S and L bands) and can assess the actual delay. Therefore NavIC is not dependent on any model to find the frequency error and is more accurate than GPS.” Reportedly, the whole system cost ISRO approximately Rs. 1,400 crore. 

No mass to struggles with international GPS systems that can’t read certain places in India! Tell us, would you opt for the Indian navigation system once it’s rolled out? You can write your thoughts about it in the comments box below!


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