Elena Geo Systems works in the niche segment of NavIC operationalisation. NavIC, being an Indian constellation, could replace other global navigational satellite systems, thereby guarding our sovereignty. Government agencies, including the three armed forces, are required to speed up NavIC utilisation, instructions that the government has already passed. Lt Col VS Velan (Retd), MD of Elena Geo Systems, explains the advantages NavIC brings with it in an interaction with Brig SK Chatterji (Retd), Editor Bharatshakti. In.
Question: What is the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), or Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) as it’s operationally referred to?
Answer: It is a constellation of satellites created by India to have its own satellite-based navigation. It is part of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). It has a dedicated set of satellites that are put up and maintained by ISRO. There are nine satellites, and another four are being added shortly. This constellation works on L5 and S Communication Bands. Recently, one satellite with an L1 signal was also installed. Today, this system is the best available option in the equatorial region.
The American Navstar, popularly known as GPS, covers the North Temperate Region, and the Russian GLONASS covers the North Pole Region. These three systems combined give locational information around the world. Hence, today, the trend is to develop a multi-GNSS system using the American, Russian, and Indian Navigational Satellites.
Question: What are the advantages of a country having its own Constellation?
Answer: Satellite-based navigation is vital for a country’s development since the system can double a country’s output by reducing wastage and increasing efficiency. Therefore, a country should have its own system. Our country’s armed forces are using GNSS extensively. To ensure sovereignty, a country needs to have its own constellation of satellites for navigation. Further, having its own satellite system ensures the constellation’s “Availability, Accuracy, Reliability, and Integrity,” leading to the best use of the system.
Question: What is the Indian government’s policy cum status on NavIC? What are the Instructions by the Ministry of Defence to forces for its implementation?
Answer: The Indian government is supporting NavIC in a big way. It is bringing in policies to ensure the utilisation of NavIC in all spheres. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has already issued a gazette notification to make NavIC mandatory in all public transport. DGCA has issued a notification for the use of NavIC in civil aviation. DoT is supporting NavIC and has made it mandatory for all cell phones to have NavIC in it by 1 January 2025. Along the same lines, the MoD has issued instructions to the Armed Forces to adopt NavIC. In all contracts, GPS has to be replaced with NavIC and other GNSS. MoD has also issued instructions to upgrade all existing GPS to NavIC-based multi-GNSS systems. The dealing directorates have also issued instructions to this effect.
Question: To what degree has the implementation of government policy been executed by all three Services? What are the plans and schedule for retrofitting?
Answer: Though the MoD passed the instructions in September – October 2019, implementation has been very slow. Currently, only two directorates in the Army have given a clear mandate to adopt NavIC to its subsidiaries. Such instructions need to be passed by all directorates. The Naval and Air Force HQs are also taking measures to adopt NavIC. However, a clear instruction to all Naval and Air Force establishments is lacking.
Question: What about the industry’s growth, and which are the companies leading in the NavIC domain?
Answer: The NavIC downstream equipment, systems and solutions have to be developed by the Indian industries in the fields of electronics, IT, GIS, and communications. This growth has been very slow, though pushed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to develop the required chips. Three to four companies are developing the core chips. However, the users and armed forces need solutions or systems, not just electronic devices. Such an effort has been put in only by Elena Geo Systems, a company solely focused on the niche NavIC segment. Elena is ‘For NavIC, By NavIC and Of NavIC’. Today, it has all the hardware and software required for using NavIC by the country. It can produce any NavIC device at very short notice.
Question: To what extent is your technology in-house?
Answer: Our company, Elena Geo Systems, has developed the entire range of hardware and software in-house. We have the whole chain, from the antenna, chips, processors, and modules to the complete solution. Industry and users can use the components individually or take the entire chain.
Question: What are your plans for the expansion and upgradation of the product? From an R&D point of view, NavIC is still an evolving system. Are you continuously innovating newer solutions for NavIC?
Answer: On the business front, we have offices in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, and Pune today. We want to expand to other regions of the country. Internationally, NavIC’s importance is felt by other countries in the equatorial region, such as the Middle East, South Asia, South-East Asia, Africa, and Australia. We want to expand to these regions.