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Flanked by European Commission Vice President Loyola de Palacio and Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell signed a broad GPS-Galileo cooperation agreement at a June 2004 U.S-E.U. Summit in Ireland.  (Source: U.S. Embassy Dublin)

When fully operational in 2012, the EU's Galileo system will include 30 satellites.  (Source: European Space Agency)
Closer cooperation between the EU and U.S. could bring about more accurate satellite navigation systems -- but at a cost

A pending agreement to synchronize the radio signals used by the United States' GPS satellite navigation system and Galileo -- its European counterpart -- is "pretty much in the bag," waiting only for official signatures to finalize the deal, according to a source close to the effort. The U.S. government official, who requested anonymity in keeping with department policy, added that the deal should be sealed this week. "It's just a matter of bureaucratics," he said.

The new agreement builds on an existing relationship between the United States and the European Commission and carries on in the same spirit of cooperation between the two government entities, the source said. The existing Agreement on the Promotion, Provision, and Use of Galileo and GPS Satellite-Based Navigation Systems and Related Applications was signed by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004.

The current agreement under consideration calls for the GPS and Galileo systems to commit to common open signal modulation architecture, relying on the same multiplex binary offset carrier, or MBOC. The U.S. official cited a number of potential benefits that may result from the shared communications plan, including simplifying the design and manufacturing of dual-system navigation devices.

Encouraging manufacturers and consumer to adopt Galileo could lend some needed support to the EU's troubled aerospace program. The $4.9 billion European project, originally designed as an alternative to the U.S.-operated Global Positioning System (GPS), has been plagued by delays, software glitches, and bickering among its eight commercial sponsors.

So far, the Galileo project has launched only one satellite, a test vehicle that is not expected to be an active part of the European Union's planned fleet of 30 navigation satellites. Linking Galileo with the existing 30-satellite GPS system would provide a full array of 60 navigational satellites, when Galileo is fully operational. Current plans call for Galileo to be ready for commercial use by 2012, at the earliest.

Doubling the number of satellites could significantly boost performance of both systems in areas where reception is often weak, such as in "urban canyons," according to the U.S. government source.

The greater number of spacecraft in the combined positioning system may also help to achieve a major increase in accuracy. Because of the nature of satellite navigation, which relies on the ability to triangulate distances from multiple geostationary satellites, the availability of so many interoperable satellites could have a huge impact on the geometry needed to fix the locations of objects here on Earth.

The U.S. government official also told DailyTech about a recent demonstration in Hungary of a surveying device capable of receiving signals from eight GPS satellites and five satellites in the Russian GLONASS navigation system. The device reportedly had the ability to determine its location to within a few centimeters. According to the U.S. State Department, the existing GPS system offers maximum accuracy to within 0.71 meters, assuming optimum receiver strength and atmospheric conditions.

While centimeter-scale accuracy could fuel new professional and industrial uses for satellite navigation devices, it could also make it easier for mobile phone manufacturers to integrate navigation features into their handsets. Speaking at a GPS industry gathering last December, SiRF founder Kanwar Chadha said that the ability to "see" more satellites would help compensate for the generally poor reception capabilities of current GPS antennas in navigation-enabld cell phones. SiRF is a provider of GPS semiconductors and software.

U.S. GPS device companies contacted by DailyTech said it was still too early to determine whether the expanded interoperability of GPS and Galileo navigation systems will provide additional impetus for the consumer navigation market. A spokesman for consumer navigation device maker Delphi said in an e-mail that technical experts there feel that "the specific business model for Galileo is still very much up in the air.  They predict that a fully functional system is still about 3 years off, so European consumers will still be on the main GPS constellation up until then."

Like GPS, use of the Galileo system will be free for consumers. However, concerns have been raised regarding the possibility of high royalty fees to be imposed on manufacturers of Galileo-capable devices. In a 2004 study commissioned by the EU, the accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers recommended that the EU limit itself to a 5% royalty on Galileo chipsets (PDF), or risk eroding the market. In addition, commercial, military and even civil aviation applications for Galileo satellite navigation data are expected to be fee-based, according to a March 2007 study (PDF) published by The French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

While the motive of generating high profits is key to keeping European development partners from deserting the Galileo project before its completion, high costs could have a chilling effect on adoption of Galileo-based products and services, the two studies concluded.

"The commercial case for establishing Galileo alongside GPS is that users will be willing to pay for superior services, and ... a terminal that can provide better coverage and reliability by receiving both signals," the Price Waterhouse Coopers report stated. "But this will only be the case if cost differentials for combined access to Galileo and GPS services are small."

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By djc208 on 7/24/2007 8:45:13 AM , Rating: 2
So the satalites will use the same technology which could benefit you if you want to pay for the EU version which doesn't technically exist yet and isn't guaranteed to ever be completed.

I would think the accuracy of this EU system would have to be very good to justify paying additional fees to get what the whole world technically gets for free right now.

Besides isn't the GPS system due for an upgrade soon too? How will that help the bussines case for this GPS alternative, or this agreement?

RE: vaporware
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 7/24/2007 9:06:18 AM , Rating: 2
The GPS system is constantly being upgraded. New satellites are launched regularly to replace aging ones, with new ones incorporating new tech.

In any case, the GPS system was originally a military project, and was sent up as such, this civilian galileo project while non-military, is showing how bad politics and bs will gum up a perfectly reasonable project. I'd say stick with GPS, atleast its there now and it works. I'm surprised the US hasnt increased the number of GPS satellites in orbit thus far, but it would be childs play to do it at any time. My best guess is that there isn't a real need yet.

RE: vaporware
By alifbaa on 7/24/2007 10:28:33 AM , Rating: 2
My understanding is that the reason the US hasn't increased the number of satellites is because the accuracy is already more than good enough for the military purposes that fund GPS' existence. The FAA is funding the WAAS implementation within the US which primarily increases altitude accuracy, allowing aircraft to use GPS for precision approaches. I'm not sure what the accuracy is for GPS with WAAS, but it's a lot better than GPS alone. I don't think it's anywhere near 1cm though.

RE: vaporware
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 7/24/2007 12:31:00 PM , Rating: 3
The "on record" military resolution for GPS is about 4 inches. Granted, the military has access to specific techniques and resolutions not available to the public via GPS.

I've not seen anything that says what the resolution of the new M-code protocol is -- it just started to come online last November.

RE: vaporware
By Shadowself on 7/24/2007 1:03:29 PM , Rating: 3
Commercial differential GPS systems can get you to better than 4 cm. You could imply from that a simple extrapolation that with the right technologies the US DoD can do significantly better than 4 cm.

The newest GPS systems have 5 different signals, two of which are dedicated to commercial/civilian use. This will increase the accuracy. It's almost like having a differential GPS system built in directly from the satellites... not exactly, but close.

When GPS first was designed the specification for the single civilian channel was "better than 100 meters" with the DoD channel to be "better than 10 meters". Clearly the design turned out to be *much* better than this.

What does this imply? That the 0.71 meter specification claimed by the US DoD is very conservative. It is *not* a best case number.

There are commercial GPS receivers out there that can track up to 12 satellites concurrently. Given that (and NOT using differential systems) I find it extremely difficult to believe that as a general case adding the European system will "significantly" increase user accuracy.

What it will do is increase the number of satellites that can be seen when in cities (the "canyon" problem mentioned).

Oh... and for a final note... there are ONLY 24 ACTIVE GPS SATELLITES. The rest are on orbit spares so that if one fails they can bring a backup online almost immediately without having to wait for days or weeks to launch a replacement. The design concept for the European system is similar.

RE: vaporware
By energy1man on 7/24/2007 1:56:40 PM , Rating: 5
I have used GPS extensively in surveying. Using better equipment than consumers have available to them. Accuracy without very specialized(RTK) equipment can easily be 2-3 meters. Using RTK, real time kinematic equipment, which involves setting up a base station over a known point, and actively beaming corrections to the rover unit, can easily get you two 2 centimeter accuracy in the open. RTK systems can cost $80,000.

In general, unless you say in the great plains, you will only see about 3-6 of the satelites at any given time. The satelites on the fringe of visibility you often don't want to use anyway because of error they will introduce, through multipathing. In short doubling the number of satellites should have a very positive influence on accuracy of all systems.

RE: vaporware
By rcc on 7/24/2007 2:31:33 PM , Rating: 2
In it's original implementation, the military GPS was inherently 10x more accurate than the service granted for civilian use.

Over the last xx years, civilian users have come up with many tricks and enhancements, differential GPS, etc. to provide improved accuracy. It's a fair bet that if the military were to use the same techniques, their accuracy would be comparitively improved.

I believe the original specs were 3 meters for military, and 30 for commercial. They've come a long way, haven't they.

RE: vaporware
By codered747 on 7/25/2007 3:00:50 AM , Rating: 2
The military uses an additional encrypted GPS signal to perform a differential GPS calculation between that and the civilian one for much improved accuracy. Both the European and the new US systems will have a second civilian frequency for a similar purpose - hence the better accuracy.

RE: vaporware
By FastLaneTX on 7/24/2007 5:14:41 PM , Rating: 2
More satellites means better accuracy and availability world-wide, but there's still limits to how good it can can. WAAS further improves on GPS (and Galileo) by giving differential corrections over a near-continental-size area. LAAS improves on that even more, but for a very limited coverage area (e.g. a large city). Both WAAS and LAAS are being funded by the civil aviation world because basic GPS, no matter how many satellites you have, can't provide the vertical accuracy needed for safe instrument landings. They don't care about the tiny (to an aircraft) horizontal inaccuracy of basic GPS; improvements in that plane are purely a side effect of trying to improve vertical accuracy.

RE: vaporware
By Ringold on 7/24/2007 5:39:13 PM , Rating: 3
I'm not sure what you mean by continental-size areas for WAAS. Each ground station has a fairly limited coverage area; 20 in the lower 48 states alone and still, as I understand it, not with complete coverage.

LAAS it was my understanding was extremely localized, ie, for a single airport (much in the way a standard ILS is).

Of course, both do increase vertical accuracy like you said, but the "continental size areas" part was misleading I think.

RE: vaporware
By FastLaneTX on 7/28/2007 1:35:47 PM , Rating: 2
There are so many WAAS ground stations because they want added redundancy, and the system covers quite a ways outside CONUS as well, down into Mexico, the Gulf, the Carribean, up into Canada, and out over both oceans. The effective range isn't good enough for US and UK WAAS coverages to reach each other, but there's no need for that.

One of the supposed benefits of LAAS is that it can cover every airport within a given range; e.g. the one for DFW will cover DAL, FTW, ADS, AFW, RBD, etc. That will save a lot of money once they're able to rip ILS systems out, and the smaller airports within range without ILS today will get better IFR procedures/limits. Accuracy will be best at DFW, of course; the further away you get, the less it helps.

RE: vaporware
By Ringold on 7/24/2007 5:58:31 PM , Rating: 2
My best guess is that there isn't a real need yet.

I can't see the uptake in general aviation being too strong. The only guys that buy the current crop of in-air subscription services are those that don't mind spending the GDP of a small African country to have in-air weather radar and traffic data instead of using a pair of Mark-I Eyeball's and free services over the radio and on the ground. If they're really planning to make it a subscription to access the European half of the constellation then I sure as hell wouldn't pay.

I like moving-map GPS displays like the GNS 430 setup as much as the next guy, but I don't scud run and don't trust GPS and more than any other instrument; a tool to be verified, preferably by looking out the window and comparing it to a map. Besides, on a clear day, a pilot that's gawking at his GPS wondering if he's 5cm to the left of the center line or 10cm to left on final approach is one that's liable to hit the Leer Jet that just pulled on to the active.

Maybe the airlines will show it a little love, or those IFR pilots that either have too much money or think that it'll help them avoid cells inside the soup, but not from me or most pilots I know.

RE: vaporware
By alifbaa on 7/25/2007 2:07:54 AM , Rating: 6
Speaking as a professional pilot with a lot of time flying heavy aircraft for the military, I think GA is precisely the market which will adopt this technology initially. GA has traditionally been the place where advanced technology has been first to be integrated into aviation, even ahead of the military and the airlines in most cases.

The moving map displays with overlayed lightning detection, radar, and streamed weather and traffic data you spoke about are more advanced than what the vast majority of airliners have. My jet doesn't even accept augmented signals, and it won't for at least the next 4-5 years.

These things aren't just the toys of the super rich, they are the tools of careful aviators who generally have a real need to get in and out of places no matter what. Particularly in GA aircraft, the margin of error when flying in those situations is very small. While you may (correctly) asses that flying in those situations is stupid, they (correctly, I hope) assess that their need to fly in those situations justifies the added challenge. In properly trained hands, those tools are what give them the extra safety margin to do what they do.

That safety margin costs money and takes experience to handle. Until you've used those tools and gained that experience, don't discount them as frivolous. You're only success will be in exposing your own inexperience and lack of knowledge.

As for 5cm accuracy, I've been flying for quite a while now, and I've never seen it get within a few orders of magnitude of that figure. In my plane, we have 4 GPS', and an INS constantly working out a best computed position between itself and all the GPS' using a very advanced algorithm. The result of the computation is what we navigate off of. As it so happens, the particular INS we have installed was the most accurate INS on the planet until two years ago, when we designed its replacement, which will start getting installed next year.

I've never seen our system get more accurate than .01nm at a 95% confidence level, and that was for a relatively brief period of time. Most of the time, it's at .02nm. While the current system is excellent and truly meets our needs, more precision and accuracy is always better, even with WAAS/LAAS.

As for your conclusion that GPS is just like any other instrument, you couldn't be more incorrect. GPS offers an unheard of level of precision, accuracy and reliability when compared to ANY other non-precision navigational source, especially when you add in WAAS/LAAS. Compared to an ILS, DGPS is close when it comes to precision and accuracy, but has the advantage of being infinitely more reliable and less prone to errors.

Included in those statements of comparative accuracy, precision, and reliability is a pilot looking at a "map." GPS is far less prone to errors and far more accurate than either you or your "chart." If I were flying, and I had a discrepancy between my chart and my GPS, I'd trust the GPS every time. If I were really concerned about my current position, I'd cross tune a VOR, which I would also trust more than looking at a chart.

If I could be so bold as to make a suggestion to you... go get an instrument rating. You'll enjoy it, you'll learn a TON, and you'll be a better pilot in terms of both mental and physical aircraft control. Do it even if you never plan on entering IMC. It's worth the money if you plan on even casually flying for the foreseeable future. I promise!

RE: vaporware
By Ringold on 7/25/2007 7:25:02 PM , Rating: 2
A couple things. First, I was within maybe five hours of an IFR checkride when I ran out of budgeted money for the little adventure. I enjoyed it, yes, but I fly for recreation and didn't think it fit my life at this point. Most days in Florida that would require an IFR just wouldn't be like, say, Indiana where I just need to get above the deck and can go VFR from there; it's a convective mad-house that's just best to avoid unless one really, really needs to get someplace. My $100 hamburgers arent enticement enough to maintain an instrument ticket. Though, I do feel as though my profeciency improved from the training.

Anyway, this statement:

GA has traditionally been the place where advanced technology has been first to be integrated into aviation, even ahead of the military and the airlines in most cases.

I won't deny that in the least! You're right. But I'm speaking of wide adoption. Sure, some people buy the XM Satellite Radio getups too, but generally it's been a bust; so will subscription-based GPS tech early on. It'll have some subscribers, I don't deny it, but it'll be tiny.

Just as a quick snapshot of the local market here. I know several owners at Orlando Exec -- none have glass panels, and only two have moving maps. I know a few at Kissimmee Gateway -- about the same, with the most advanced GPS actually being a hand-held unit velcro'd to the dash of an ancient (but very pretty) C152. The flight school's at Kissimmee also, as of a year ago, talked about getting a new C172 with the G1000 package, but they'd been saying that for years. Air Orlando at Orlando Exec has a few but by far the most popular are the older 172s, and the even older 152s (before the hurricanes mysteriously ate them for lunch) were so heavily booked if you didn't schedule two weeks ahead of time you were at peoples mercy.

And Sanford? Identical story. One flight school has one C172 w/ G1000 (and I think I heard they're getting a 182T with it as well), but everybody I know flies there 'cause their 172N's and 152's are cheap. The other school just did or will soon be upgrading all their planes with GNS 430s -- with no subscriptions to those fancy services. A friend I knew in high school built an odd-looking seaplane last year -- GPS, but no moving map.

Flying is incredibly expensive as it is, and tacking on expensive subscription services which for many casual fliers provide little more than noise that just add to the hourly expense doesn't make sense for a lot of the market.

So yes, I'm sure there will be a core part of the market that you describe that'll want it, that'll use it, and that will improve safety and maybe save some money by doing so. But that you even have an INS, the same basic system used to guide ICBM's with solid accuracy, means that we're talking about two different parts of the market entirely. :)

But me, and the other guys that fill airports on the weekends wanting to pop over to Ocala from Sanford or maybe make a day trip out of a burger raid on Georgia, Key West or the likes are going to be looking more at planes closely aligned with lower-complexity like the new Sport category, rather than this type of equipment. For us, even if we're instrument rated, if an ILS or GPS approach can't cut it (for free), then, well, that incremental cost for minimal incremental ability (esp. when WAAS is free too) just doesn't make sense.

not geostationary
By nafhan on 7/24/2007 9:33:25 AM , Rating: 3
The article mentions that GPS is geostationary. This is not the case; geostationary would mean the satellites are circling the equator at approx 35,000 km . Taken together, GPS orbits look more like a spiderweb encircling the earth at roughly 20,000 km. This allows for much greater coverage over most of the globe than would be available from geostationary.

RE: not geostationary
By masher2 (blog) on 7/24/2007 9:58:48 AM , Rating: 3
The terms geostationary and geosychronous are used somewhat loosely. A geostationary orbit is indeed constrained to the equator, but a geosynchronous orbit can be aligned to pass over any point on will trace out the same path each day.

The GPS satellites aren't geosynchronous either, though. Technically, they're semisynchronous ...they have an orbital period of exactly half geosychronous, so they trace the same path twice each day.

Interoperate with more
By GoatMonkey on 7/24/2007 1:45:41 PM , Rating: 2
The satellites we should be looking to interoperate with are the Chinese satellites. They seem to like the idea of shooting down satellites. So if we can use theirs then they'd have to shoot down their own to knock out our positioning systems.

Yes, I know there are a million holes in this idea. Have fun with it. They may not even have a GPS style system for all I know.

RE: Interoperate with more
By lumbergeek on 7/24/2007 3:35:08 PM , Rating: 2
The don't - they pirate the US and Russian signals.

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