A satellite navigation system that was designed to guide the landing and take off of aircraft will now come to the rescue of thousands of fishermen in the country who lose communication while at sea. 

GEMINI is a simple handheld device that collects data from the GPS-aided geo-augmented navigation system that are most often used in Indian airports. The data is then transmitted to mobile phones via an app.  

So far, communication with fishermen has been limited to mobile networks and very high frequency (VHF) radio which does not range over 20 kilometres. Howevers, shoals of fish are often found as far away as 150 kilometres in Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. 
At such distances, it becomes impossible to provide timely warnings of sea storms and cyclones to fishermen.

Minister for science and technology Harsh Vardhan was quoted as saying that if only we had this device when Cyclone Ockhi hit the western coast in November 2017, we could have saved the lives of hundreds of fishermen lost at sea. Officially, Ockhi claimed 245 lives—218 in India and 27 in Sri Lanka.

Collaboration between Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and the Airport Authority of India which has lead to the innovation of GEMINI. 

Apart from providing storm and disaster warnings or Ocean States Forecast, the system also transmits locations of fish shoals by mapping Potential Fishing Zones to help enhance the livelihoods of fishermen, according to Satheesh Shenoi, director of INCOIS.

“GEMINI is manufactured in Bangalore by a local company and although it is cheap it covers the seas around India and can be sold for use by countries in the entire Indian Ocean rim,” says Balakrishnan Nair, a scientist with INCOIS.

A GEMINI set is available from Accord Software and Systems, the manufacturers, at $140 (Rs9,942), about the price of a low-end smartphone. Distribution has been left to the department of fisheries and concerned local governments which may have policies on concessional rates. Once acquired all that a user needs to do is download an app into a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone.

For India, the department of fisheries has plans to fund the distribution of GEMINI sets to fishermen, says Nair.

India’s autonomous regional satellite navigation system, called NAVIC, provides accurate real-time positioning and timing services. Navigation satellite systems currently in operation include GPS, operated by the US and Russia’s space-based satellite navigation system