FAA plans to expand GPS use

Nashville, Tenn.—The Federal Aviation Administration has forged a series of agreements that will widen the use of enhanced Global Positioning System navigation aids into Central and South America as well as a vast swath of North Atlantic airspace extending to Iceland.

Dave Peterson, director of international activities in the FAA's satellite navigation office, said the recently signed international agreements will enable the agency to extend coverage and use of its yet-to-be-completed Wide-Area Augmentation System from Iceland to Alaska as well as much of Central and South America.

WAAS is a $3 billion system made up of a series of ground reference stations and communications satellites that will provide precise positioning information and GPS signals that pilots need to make precision landings.

Besides agreements to extend WAAS use into Canada and Iceland, Peterson, speaking here at the semiannual Coast Guard Civil GPS Service Interface Committee meeting, said Mexico and Panama plan to install WAAS reference stations, extending coverage to Central America.

"Next month we plan to ship three test bed stations to Mexico, and Panama has agreed to put one in," he said.

Future talks will determine the location of another WAAS station in either Costa Rica or Guatemala, Peterson said.

Chile, Peterson said, "has agreed to take the lead to install a regional augmentation system" throughout South America. Brazil, Peru and Bolivia are expected to sign on to the regional system.

Chile plans to build five WAAS-compatible stations, including one master station, Peterson said. LANChile Airlines has started test flights with aircraft equipped with GPS/augmentation receivers.

In a related development, the State Department intends to hold discussions with the European Commission to ensure that the U.S.-funded GPS will be compatible with the European Union's planned GPS-like navigation system, Galileo. State also wants to gain headway in protecting the aeronautical satellite navigation band from incursions by commercial mobile satellite communications systems at next year's international World Radio Conference.

Air Force Lt. Col. Julie Karner, assigned to State as the assistant director for space and multilateral cooperation, said the United States has agreed to meet with the EC later this year to discuss compatibility. Karner said the United States has a number of concerns about Galileo, including whether users such as international airlines will be able to switch from Galileo to GPS easily. To ensure a seamless transition, the United States wants to make sure that the systems are compatible at the technical level, including clocks, timing and signal types. The United States, Karner said, wants the EC to provide "an openly published signal structure" for Galileo.

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