The FAA’s announcement (reported in March GPS World) that WAAS in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada may be significantly inhibited by relocation of WAAS-broadcasting satellite AOR-W before the new PanAmSat becomes fully operational in fall 2006 caused unease in some surveying organizations. Based on tests completed last year, before anyone knew that AOR-W would relocate to 142W longitude, these organizations replaced legacy GPS mapping units using post-processing and the Coast Guard NDGPS with high-performance WAAS-enabled mapping receivers.
The FAA notice doesn’t tell the full story, however. Two new WAAS broadcasting satellites launched last fall. PanAmSat (133W) began broadcasting in test mode with corrections full-time this March, and Telesat (107W) is scheduled to begin the same mode on or around April 1, 2006. The FAA announcement does not take into account either of these broadcasting satellites.
If these test signals are considered, there will be no degradation in WAAS visibility. In fact, users in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada will enjoy dual WAAS satellite coverage. WAAS satellite visibility in central and western North America has improved in the past 60 days with the new test signals and relocation of AOR-W.
However, the FAA won’t certify the accuracy/reliability of the new satellites until after extensive testing. Until then, non-aviation receivers may use the signals at their discretion —the same mode WAAS operated in prior to its July 2003 commissioning. Also, non-aviation WAAS receivers may not be configured to use the new test signals; check with the manufacturer.
— Eric Gakstatter, Editor of GPS World’s new Survey & Construction E-Newsletter