In coming years, general aviation pilots can expect to have access to twice as many satellites for GPS navigation under an agreement reached between the United States and the European Union. The deal ensures that the future European GPS system, dubbed Galileo, will be compatible with the U.S. system, effectively doubling the number of satellites, increasing signal availability, and improving reception at low altitudes and in mountainous terrain.
The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA), under the leadership of AOPA President Phil Boyer, has long worked to ensure that the new system, still in the development phase, reflects the needs of general aviation users. "This agreement protects the investment pilots are making in GPS today while guaranteeing that they will have access to improved technology in the future," Boyer said.
Under the June 26 agreement, Galileo's signals will not interfere with existing U.S. satellite signals, extending the life of today's avionics. At the same time, the deal opens the way for discussions of manufacturing standards for future avionics and continues the trend toward dual-frequency satellite navigation, which will dramatically reduce the chances of interference causing GPS signal loss and improve navigation globally.
To gain all of the benefits of Galileo once it becomes fully operational, aviation users will need to upgrade their avionics. But don't plan to trade in your trusty GPS for a next-generation system any time soon. "For the next 10 years or more, GPS plus WAAS [Wide Area Augmentation System] will continue to be the gold standard for GA navigation," Boyer said.
July 6, 2004