Future-proofing with GNSS

Chapter 1: Introduction

Author: Bernhard Richter, October 2016

In 2003, the European Union (EU) and the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed on the joint Galileo navigation programme. Back then, the EU comprised of 15 Member States, and this figure is not the only one to have almost doubled in the interim.

The ambitious target of having a functioning equivalent of the U.S. GPS by 2008 was deferred year after year for a number of reasons, primarily, albeit not only, due to difficulty in justifying its financing. The financial and banking crisis of 2007, triggered by the housing bubble, resulted in government debt crises and has delayed the programme ever since. Now, it seems, the conditions surrounding the Galileo programme have stabilised, which is clear to see in the nine Galileo satellites that are currently active.

At the annual meeting of manufacturers and the European GNSS Agency in November 2015, six new satellites were announced for 2016, along with eight further additions in the following two years. This rapid expansion means that users will soon have significant improvements in the availability of positions in difficult conditions. Galileo’s full operational capability (FOC) of 30 satellites by 2020 appears to be safe, as it is unlikely that the assured budgets (2 billion Euros for deployment and 3 billion Euros for operation until 2020) will be withdrawn.

The Chinese BeiDou system has offered a navigation service since 2000, but the speed at which the system has been developed recently has surprised all the experts. As if that isn’t enough, Ran Chengqi, Director of the Chinese Satellite Navigation Office, announced an accelerated expansion, with 35 satellites in total and 27 globally available satellites by 2017, rather than 2020 as planned. In many areas of the globe, BeiDou is well established for high-precision navigation and surveying.

Whether GNSS innovations will slow after the completion of Galileo and BeiDou can of course only be estimated and sketched out using GPS. The original, purely military GPS is in a different life cycle and shows how systems can be operated successfully. For years, only worn-out satellites have been replaced with newer generations. A pro-active approach, having sufficiently modern satellites with GPS L5 available as quickly as possible, falls victim to a cost-benefit approach. The lifespan of Block II satellites is also far exceeding expectations and further slowing the pace of the GPS modernisation.

Explore next chapter: New high precision receivers bring opportunities

Story: Future-proofing with GNSS
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: New high precision receivers bring opportunities
Chapter 3: New Leica Viva GS16 GNSS smart antennae future proofs business
Chapter 4: Less can be more
Chapter 5: Increasing the stability of RTK correction data

Reporter 76

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