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Seen & Heard: Microsatellites, tethered drones and ladybugs

July 25, 2019  - By

“Seen & Heard” is a monthly feature of GPS World magazine, traveling the world to capture interesting and unusual news stories involving the GNSS/PNT industry.

Tethered drone

Spanish police used a tethered drone system for traffic monitoring, crowd control and surveillance of the UEFA Champions League Final, played June 1 at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. An Elistair tethered U06 Plus drone oversaw 67,000 fans in the stadium and 200,000 in nearby streets. Use of the drone was in response to a heightened terrorist threat level in Spain, making it part of the largest security operation for any sporting event in the Spanish capital. Continuously supplied with power, the drone maintained its position at 50 meters high for 8 hours.

CYGNSS satellite launch. (Artist’s concept/NASA)

CYGNSS satellite launch. (Artist’s concept/NASA)

Tricky Signals

NASA’s eight CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) microsatellites collect radio signals from GPS beacons to characterize hurricanes. A month after launch in December 2016, the CYGNSS team noticed the signals were wavering when the U.S. began to boost the radio power on 10 GPS satellites as they passed over northern Syria. The swings don’t interfere with other scientific uses of GPS, but for CYGNSS the measurements of high winds varied by 5 meters a second or more — the difference between a category-2 and category-3 hurricane. After two years of work, the CYGNSS team has compensated by repurposing a secondary antenna on the satellites to measure GPS signal strength.

The ladybug blob tracked by Doppler radar. (Image: National Weather Service)

The ladybug blob tracked by Doppler radar. (Image: National Weather Service)

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home

In this case, California. In June, a millions-strong swarm of ladybugs showed up on radar as a weather event when the insects took to the sky to hunt for aphids. One explanation for the unusual swarm is that a large population of ladybugs had been spread out in a mountainous area, and rising temperatures triggered their mass migration to valleys where they might find an abundance of aphids to eat.

New Zealand joins Aussies on SBAS

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) will work with Australian counterpart Geoscience Australia to investigate ways to deliver a regional satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) to significantly improve GPS accuracy. The proposed SBAS will support emergency helicopter crews, providing pilots with accurate vertical guidance for landing, enabling them to reach people faster in difficult terrain and bad weather. The SBAS will also improve the safety of self-driving cars. The new system will improve accuracy to less than a meter, and in some devices to 10 centimeters.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.