FAA awards satellite navigational pact to AMTI

The Federal Aviation Administration this month awarded a contract to Advanced Management Technology Inc. to improve satellite-based navigational technology for civilian pilots.

The Satellite Navigation Technical Assistance Contract (SNTAC), which is worth $62 million over seven years, will provide technical engineering services and program management support for current and future satellite programs at the FAA. The contract will support, for example, the Wide-Area Augmentation System (WAAS), which will provide pilots with access to highly accurate positioning information by refining existing Global Positioning System signals.

Protests against the award to AMTI were filed this month by Camber Corp., Huntsville, Ala., and Information Systems Network, Bethesda, Md.

Airlines, shipping companies, and rail and transit systems increasingly are using GPS to provide information on position, velocity and time. GPS originally was designed by the Defense Department and now is jointly managed by DOD and the Transportation Department. It is a network of 24 satellites that government and private-sector individuals— outfitted with widely available receivers— can access to pinpoint their location on Earth or in the air within several meters.

Under SNTAC, AMTI will provide a broad range of support to the FAA's GPS product team, including project management, acquisition and engineering, local-area networking and video conferencing.

The contract consolidates a number of GPS services contracts that are expiring soon and will serve as the "primary vehicle for supporting federal employees" working on the GPS program, said Sandra Harrelson, a contracting officer at the FAA. Because of the consolidation, this contract is the largest single GPS services contract awarded by the FAA, she said.

"We will help with the implementation of GPS as it actually is fielded over the next couple of years," an official at AMTI said. "With WAAS, we will do everything to support the FAA and the prime contractor [Raytheon] to make sure it happens on budget and on time."

Congress and the General Accounting Office have criticized WAAS for being over budget and behind schedule. This year, the FAA said WAAS will cost $3.05 billion over the life of the program, an increase of more than $600 million from the value cited by the agency last fall.

AMTI also will help to develop the specifications for the Local-Area Augmentation System, a new satellite-based program that will guide planes to runways during inclement weather. LAAS, which consists of ground stations installed at 143 airports and avionics systems installed on planes, will provide positioning information that is accurate enough for pilots to land aircraft despite low visibility.

"We sit on committees and we will interact with the FAA and industry as a consensus is built on LAAS," an AMTI official said. AMTI participates in working groups associated with installing satellite navigation, including RTCA working groups, the Satellite Operational Implementation Team and the Airway Facilities Implementation Team.

The landscape for GPS is set to change. Earlier this year Vice President Al Gore announced that a second and third civilian GPS signal would become available by 2005. Joe Canny, chairman of DOT's Civil GPS Service Interface Committee, said the second signal would improve the reliability of WAAS, but it is not clear how aviation will use the third signal. However, because "industry is so inventive in devising ways to use GPS," Canny said, "I think the [third signal] will come into use in aviation. I don't think people concerned with the [GPS] system had ever thought of all the ways to use it."

Other bidders on the contract are believed to include teams led by Science Applications International Corp., TRW Inc. and SRC.

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