CARLSBAD – With its acquisition of Inmarsat last year, Viasat (Nasdaq: VSAT) is turning some of its attention to the United Kingdom, the acquired company’s home turf.
Even the effects of Brexit, the UK’s departure from the European Union in January 2020, are being felt in Viasat’s Carlsbad headquarters.
One of the projects Viasat acquired with the Inmarsat deal is a GPS-like service for the United Kingdom – one that offers highly precise positioning, navigation and timing data.
Specifically, Viasat is working on the UK satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) to provide positioning data. The British government funds the program; financial terms of the deal were not immediately available.
Viasat said it demonstrated the system’s capability for the first time in mid-January during a flight of a Saab 340B turboprop aircraft out of the UK’s Cranfield Airport, near London. The event showed that the system can pinpoint an aircraft’s position down to a few centimeters. Standard GPS offers a position accurate to a few meters (or yards).
The rest of Europe uses the Galileo system. However, with its departure from the European Union, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS).
Viasat said that EGNOS can still be used for non-safety applications in the UK, and that the recent trial aims to provide a first step toward a complementary UK SBAS which can be used for critical safety-of-life navigation services across air, land and sea.
UK SBAS melds ground monitoring data with satellite connectivity to provide more reliable navigational data. For aviation, the system gives pilots greater trust in their onboard instruments when visibility is low.
Viasat said its research with one regional flight operator indicated that close to 40% of flights cancelled due to weather could have gone ahead had UK SBAS been available.
Viasat’s partners in the effort are Goonhilly Earth Station, CGI UK, GMV, Ordnance Survey, Cranfield University, the Cranfield National Flying Laboratory Centre and Pildo Labs.
UK SBAS generates an overlay test signal to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), fully compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, to enable assessment of more precise, resilient and high-integrity navigation for maritime and aviation users in UK waters and airspace. The signal is being broadcast in coordination with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union Space Programme Agency (EUSPA).
CEO: Mark Dankberg
BUSINESS: Broadband services and technologies company
REVENEUE: $2.56 billion in fiscal 2023
STOCK: VSAT (NASDAQ)
SOCIAL IMPACT: Viasat employees provided 11,572 hours of volunteer service during fiscal 2023.
NOTABLE: Viasat traces its roots to Linkabit, a tech company with ties to UC San Diego. Viasat co-founder and CEO Mark Dankberg previously worked at Linkabit.