Beidou Satellite System


    In News

    • Recently, China released its official whitepaper titled “China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System in the New Era”. 



    What is the BeiDou navigation system?


    • Background
      • China initiated BeiDou in 1994 with aims to integrate its application in different sectors, including fishery, agriculture, special care, mass-market applications, forestry and public security. 
    • Global navigation network 
      • BDS is a global navigation network alongside the US’ GPS, (Global Positioning System) Russia’s GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo.
      • India too is building its navigational system called the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), with an operational name of NAVIC.
    • Accuracy
      • It uses a network of satellites and can provide positional accuracies of under ten metres (GPS provides positioning accuracies of under 2.2 metres).
    • Constellation 
      • BDS has a constellation of 30 satellites in orbit and began its international outreach once the set up was finished in 2018.

    Global Outreach

    • It is now in use in more than half of the world’s countries. 
    • China is also helping several BRI partners including Pakistan and Sri Lanka launch communication satellites.
    • Pakistan in 2014 became the first foreign country to set up a Beidou network. 
    • Saudi Arabia is using Beidou in surveying and mapping, positioning people and vehicles in the desert.
    • Tajikistan is using BDS to monitor dams and lakes with precision.
    • Lebanon is using BDS at Beirut port for marine survey and construction. 
    • In Burkina Faso, it is being used for survey and construction of hospitals. 
    • Beidou has set up a first of three Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) for its network in Thailand in 2013, to serve as a hub for ASEAN. 
      • CORS in Thailand and Sri Lanka will extend the BDS coverage at least 3,000 km more towards Southeast Asia and South Asia. 
    • China and Russia have signed a strategic framework on their two navigation systems, taking forward a 2015 deal on interoperability between Beidou and GLONASS.


    • Used in guiding drones.
    • Autonomous cars.
    • In agriculture and forestry.
    • Launching with Chinese mobile phone companies using Chinese chips.
    • Satellite-powered messaging for smartphones that provides for connectivity in remote areas even in the absence of ground reception.
    • For the Chinese military, the BeiDou provides an independent navigation system especially for its missile launches reducing dependence on GPS which could deny access to certain areas in times of conflict.
    • It has been deeply integrated with emerging technologies such as big data, the internet of things, and artificial intelligence, fostering new business forms based on BDS.


    • Short message communication service: It is the world’s first navigation satellite system to provide a global short message communication service.
    • Alternative to GPS: The BDS could also serve as a backup if GPS goes down entirely.
    • High accuracy and coverage: BDS has achieved global coverage with world-class accuracy.

    Way Forward

    • China is strengthening regional cooperation with organisations such as ASEAN, the African Union, the League of Arab States, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. 

    Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) Technology

    • An autonomous regional satellite navigation system, also known as Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), is developed by ISRO.
    • It has been designed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1500 km from its boundary.
    • It will provide two types of services:
      • Standard Positioning Service (SPS): provided to all the users.
      • Restricted Service (RS): It 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.
    • Presently, it consists of 7 active satellites located at a distance of approximately 36,000 Km.
      • 3 satellites are in Geostationary Orbit (GEO).
      • 4 satellites are in inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (GSO).

    Source: TH