Cattle and sheep herding could be getting a lot easier thanks to RMIT’s Dr Suelynn Choy, whose research is at the forefront of intelligent transport systems.
Last year, Choy became the first female researcher to win the National Measurement Institute Prize for her work with robotic tractors and is now laying the groundwork for significant improvements to our current global navigation systems.
Here, Choy tells us more about the difficulties of positioning accuracy and what this could mean for our future.
What is your current research focus?
I’m currently focused on developing augmentation techniques for improving the positioning accuracy and performance of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like GPS.
I’m learning how GNSS technology can be augmented to deliver a range of fit-for-purpose positioning services to support various sectors like mining, civil construction, precision agriculture and ITS.
Who is affected by your research?
My research provides input into Australia’s National Positioning Infrastructure (NPI) project, led by Geoscience Australia.
GNSS has revolutionised our ability to apply positioning information – from smartphone location services to in-car navigation systems. Augmented GNSS services have delivered significant economic, social and environmental benefits to Australia. The NPI project ensures the information users receive is accurate anywhere and at any time within Australia.
What drew you to this specific field?
GNSS technology is a highly valuable tool that increases productivity within the surveying and construction industry. My father is a surveyor and so the surveying industry has always been something that made sense to me.
Tell us about robotic tractors – how do they work and how has your research contributed to this field?
Real-time positioning information from GNSS navigation satellites enabled the tractors to autonomously track, turn and operate machinery doing a variety of routine farming operations.
The tractors knowing where they are is fundamental in auto-steering and driving on perfect parallel lines, avoiding overlaps and gaps in cultivation activities.
My research contributed towards providing highly accurate, centimetre-level positioning information to users.
How has your work developed over the years?
I started my research using a single-frequency single-constellation GPS measurement.
Today, there are more than 100 operational navigation satellites in orbit from several systems transmitting signals across several frequencies.
Now, I work on measurements from all of these different systems and frequencies to improve the overall positioning performance of GNSS.
What has been the proudest moment in your research career so far?
I have to say the moment when I realise my work is really having an impact and my achievements are being recognized.
I knew I’d been nominated for the NMI prize but the outcome was definitely a surprise.
What possibilities can intelligent transport systems provide that most people might be unaware of?
The real-world implications of self-driving cars are already happening. It is amazing that cars are able to communicate with other vehicles on the road and the surrounding infrastructure.
Self-driving cars will certainly help to make our roads safer and lives easier.
How does accurate point positioning in Australia differ from other countries?
Australia doesn’t own a satellite navigation system nor have control over any of the GNSS constellations. Large coverage gaps also exist in Australia between existing ground communications infrastructure, which prohibits delivery of a nationwide service using ground-based communications alone.
I hope my research can contribute to this technical void and help develop our nation’s capacity to provide location services anywhere and at any time.
Story: Sean O’Malley