Insights into Editorial: NAVIC: India’s eye in the sky
NAVIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), India’s indigenous global navigation satellite system, is expected to become fully operational from this month.
What is NAVIC?
NAVIC is an independent regional navigation satellite system designed to provide position information in the Indian region and 1500 km around the Indian mainland.
What all services are provided?
IRNSS would provide two types of services, namely Standard Positioning Services available to all users and Restricted Services provided to authorised users.
Its applications include:
- Terrestrial, Aerial and Marine Navigation.
- Disaster Management.
- Vehicle tracking and fleet management.
- Integration with mobile phones.
- Precise Timing.
- Mapping and Geodetic data capture.
- Terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travelers.
- Visual and voice navigation for drivers.
How is India going in a global context?
India has been making great progress in space and research fields. Indian GPS would certainly boost country’s credentials in this field. India becomes only the fifth entity to have a GPS system of their own. Apart from India, US has Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia has Glonass, Europe has Galileo and China has BeiDou as their navigational systems. NAVIC will reduce the dependencies on the other systems for the country. That means that even in a war-like situation there would be no interruption of the information.
How many satellites does NAVIC consist of? When were they launched?
IRNSS is a regional system and so its constellation will consist of seven satellites. Three of these will be geostationary over the Indian Ocean, i.e., they will appear to be stationary in the sky over the region, and four will be geosynchronous – appearing at the same point in the sky at the same time every day. This configuration ensures each satellite is being tracked by at least one of fourteen ground stations at any given point of time, with a high chance of most of them being visible from any point in India. IRNSS satellites are numbered from 1A to 1G.
Why it is necessary to have indigenous global navigation system?
Having a global navigation system bolsters the ability of a nation to serve as a net security provider, especially through the guarantee of such assurance policies. It can also play a significant role in relief efforts post disasters such as the tsunami in the Indian Ocean region in 2004 and the Pakistan-India earthquake in 2005.
Potential applications of NAVIC:
- Through land-area mapping, yield monitoring and precision-planting of crops, NAVIC allows for the development of civic capabilities in food and livelihood security.
- NAVIC also arrives as an instrument for environmental and meteorological monitoring, as well as climate research. These capabilities can be leveraged to design reliable and efficient response mechanisms for natural disasters, alleviating the devastation they wreak through well-managed disaster relief.
- NAVIC’s interoperability with GPS can ensure the minimization of technical snags when used complementarily with existing GPS-enabled solutions.
- Chief beneficiary of Navic is the military, which now has access to an encrypted and completely secure service. The forces will no longer have to depend on the US service, a weakness that was exposed during the Kargil conflict of 1999, when accurate GPS data on the region was not forthcoming in real time.
- Navic will offer public access to an unsecured service for civilian applications like logistics, transportation, vehicle automation, robotics, disaster management, prospecting, the tracking of vehicles, people, pets and the Internet of Things. This could trigger a boom in GPS applications tuned to Navic.
- This could also provide an occasion for hardware manufacturers to turn protectionist and urge government to force manufacturers of GPS products to patronise the Indian service.
How this would improve bilateral relations?
Building on India’s offering of assistance to Pakistan during the floods in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and other areas in 2014, NAVIC could establish a tradition of regional monitoring whereby India leverages its technological edge to safeguard citizens across the subcontinent. Such gestures could blunt the adversarial nature of Indo-Pakistan relations in the long run, signalling to the region and the globe alike that India values human security despite prevailing gridlock in strategic relations. NAVIC might even go some way to mend and meliorate relations with a guarded Islamabad.
Charting out growth routes for South Asian economies, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) governments can also welcome the launch of NAVIC as an opening shot to accelerated innovation. NAVIC should also propel technological innovations and spin-offs that render South Asia progressively less reliant on technological imports from the West and elsewhere.
Now, India should work to shift the regional frame of mind from defence thinking to subcontinental cooperation, pushing back against isolationist impulses that stand in the way of realizing the civilian and commercial promise of NAVIC. An ability to integrate space infrastructure into the Indian state apparatus has fortunate ripple effects beyond Indian borders. In dedicating itself to exploring and actualizing the civilian and commercial potential of NAVIC, India can signal to its regional partners that its rise is not only passively peaceful but also directly beneficial to those it can lift up in its tide.