Professor Kefei Zhang’s new Radio Occultation (RO) technology has revolutionised weather forecast and atmospheric climate change monitoring.
Professor Kefei Zhang, Director of SPACE Research Centre (Satellite Positioning for Atmosphere, Climate and Environment)
Professor Zhang’s primary areas of research specialty are space situational awareness, atmosphere modelling, precise positioning and satellite navigation, location-based services, indoor positioning and people mobility tracking.
Professor Zhang aims to contribute to the scientific community in a significant way by working towards a greater understanding of the near earth space system.
He primarily specialises in precise positioning and tracking in both space and time, with a particular focus in the area of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) and earth observation systems (EOS).
This core focus has a broad spectrum of research applications, including cutting edge technology in satellite-to-satellite tracking, particularly low earth satellites.
The technology uses signals to peer through the earth’s atmosphere and in doing so offers incredible insight into atmospheric conditions.
The signal passes through the earth’s atmosphere and is affected by the atmospheric conditions, offering critical information on water vapor, temperature, reflectivity and pressure which all play a critical role in the assessment of the environment and the condition of the atmosphere.
According to Professor Zhang it’s very important to have a readily available, reliable data source in weather forecasting and this is a new data source, which virtually has no bias and drifting problems.
“Current weather sensors are prone to biases and/or drifting concerns and this issue contributes to the debate about climate change,” he says.
"This new technology doesn’t rely on the device, receiver, satellite or platform being used and therefore it offers highly reliable unbiased data."
RO technology used in conjunction with other meteorological observation systems will significantly improve the accuracy of weather prediction and aid in climate change analysis.
That is why we focus on new methodologies to improve the measurement of temperature and moisture profiles in the troposphere.
In collaboration with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the GNSS RO technology is now used operationally in our national weather forecasting system and so far an improvement of 10 hours has been achieved. This success was recognised through our team being nominated as a finalist in the 2014 The Australian Innovation Challenge Award.
The SPACE Research Centre has also successfully pursued the novel approach of using the frontier GNSS technologies to capture significant signatures of severe weather events. All these research outcomes are having a significant impact on the lives of everyday people.”
Looking to the future, Professor Zhang aims to establish a comprehensive and effective integration architecture to develop atmospheric profiles with high resolution, high reliability and high precision that has not been present in current technology
As well as atmospheric modeling, Professor Zhang leads research in Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) surveying theory, geodesy and algorithm development, as well as space situational awareness (space debris tracking and collision avoidance) - a growing threat to the current satellite population.
GNSS is used for precise and ubiquitous positioning and tracking including location based services (LBS), object and people mobility tracking, and intelligent transportation systems. It is also becoming a primary method for precise satellite orbit determination.
“Our ultimate goal of this research is to be able to precisely locate, track and navigate people and objects in real time and across all space.”
The SPACE Research Centre collaborates with a large network of research groups spanning from the Asia-Pacific, Russia, Europe to America.
This includes the Space Environment Research Centre (SERC), the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Electro Optic Space Systems (EOSS) Pty Ltd, Australian Antarctic Division, GPSat Systems Australia, federal and state governments, and research institutions and organisations in the USA, Austria, Germany and China.
Professor Zhang has a soft spot for RMIT’s credo of ‘a skilled hand and a cultivated mind.’
“The emphasis at RMIT is not only on science and technology but on their effective and efficient integration, and this is where innovation and invention comes from.”
With this in mind Professor Zhang hopes to build the SPACE Research Centre into an international leading group in space science and technology.