Regional Navigation Satellite System or IRNSS recognised by IMO

  • Recently, India became the fourth country in the world to have its independent regional navigation satellite system recognised by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as a part of the World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS).
  • The navigation system can now replace GPS in the Indian Ocean waters upto 1500 km from the Indian boundary. The process of getting the recognition for the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System based on satellites of the Indian Space Research Organisation took about two years. Merchant vessels in Indian waters can now use the “modern and more accurate” system as an alternative navigation module.

What is the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System?

  • The IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system developed by India. It is designed to provide accurate position information service to assist in the navigation of ships in the Indian Ocean waters. It could replace the US-owned Global Positioning System (GPS) in the Indian Ocean extending up to approximately 1500 km from the Indian boundary.
  • An Extended Service Area lies between the primary service area and an area enclosed by the rectangle from Latitude 30 deg South to 50 deg North, Longitude 30 deg East to 130 deg East.
  • IRNSS will provide two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Service (SPS) which is provided to all the users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to the authorised users. The IRNSS System is expected to provide a position accuracy of better than 20 m in the primary service area.

Some applications of IRNSS are:

  • 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 travellers
  • Visual and voice navigation for drivers
  • The space segment consists of the IRNSS constellation of eight satellites, NavIC. Three satellites are located in suitable orbital slots in the geostationary orbit and the remaining four are located in geosynchronous orbits with the required inclination and equatorial crossings in two different planes. All the satellites of the constellation are configured identically.

What does the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) recognition of the IRNSS mean?

  • The IMO is the United Nations’ specialised agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships. The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the IMO recognised the IRNSS as a component of the World-wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS) during its 102nd session. 
  • With the recognition as a component of the WWRNS, the Indian navigation system is similarly placed as GPS, most commonly used by marine shipping vessels across the world or the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). After the US, Russia and China that have their own navigation systems, India has become the fourth country to have its independent regional navigation system. 
  • Unlike GPS, however, IRNSS is a regional and not a global navigation system. This is also a “significant achievement” towards the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative.

Who can make use of the IRNSS?

  • While the system will be open to all including security agencies, officials of the Directorate General of Shipping said as of now, all merchant vessels including small fishing vessels are authorised to use the system. Vessels that have transponders installed in them will be tracked by satellite navigation showing accurate position in the Indian Ocean region. 
  • According to the Director General of Shipping, at any given time, there are at least 2,500 merchant vessels in Indian waters that can all use the IRNSS. The IRNSS is a modern and more accurate system of navigation. The system is based on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) satellites that are used for navigation.

Why was it necessary for India to have its own navigation system?

  • Overdependence on one system (GPS) cannot be safe. The IMO had encouraged countries to design their own navigation systems. The recognition accorded to IRNSS was in the process for two years. Details of the tests carried out on merchant ships with regard to the accuracy of the system were included in the report prepared by ISRO which was submitted to IMO for consideration.