There were a lot of the familiar faces at the Institute of Navigation GNSS 2012 convention in Nashville September 18-21. The show activity level was around the same as last year with a few more companies exhibiting. The format of workshops/panel discussions has really helped make program updates more comprehensible and accessible, but there weren’t a large number of technical/product papers by manufacturers.
The global panel discussions/workshops were popular, providing constellation status overviews on GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and Compass/Beidou, as were the SBAS updates on the European EGNOS, US WAAS, and Russian SDCM. We also heard of key EGNOS and WAAS L5 implementation plans.
The exhibit hall was somewhat busy, with several new companies attending, and there were new products around if you looked for them, even if some had already been announced prior to ION. Manufacturers now have a number of market-segment product showcase shows where they can pitch new applications and products, so they don’t always save these for ION. ION still presents the opportunity for international industry/agencies/academics to get together and meet face-to-face, and this is still a key ingredient that pulls people in. Nashville this year was as ever a great venue — you could almost hear the music on Broadway from the exhibit hall.
Some snippets of news I collected during the show included:
- Russia is still moving forward with next-generation GLONASS capability plans, and build-out of the System for Differential Corrections and Monitoring (SDCM) — the Russian SBAS. With one Luch GEO already on orbit, recovery is well underway to replace an apparent recent launch failure of the second Luch GEO, and the ground network continues to grow with 19 reference sites inside Russia and five outside. The Russian space industry is apparently undergoing a phase of consolidation, with fewer stronger organizations emerging. Plans for a new generation of SDCM multi-constellation reference receivers — including use of GPS, Galileo and other SBAS signals — are apparently being considered.
- EGNOS in Europe is also moving right along, rolling out GNSS aircraft approaches, mostly in Germany and France, with LPV precision approach development well advanced in France, Germany and UK. Thirty-seven ground reference sites are up and running with step-by-step improvements in accuracy, integrity and coverage planned out to at around 2014/2016.
- U.S. WAAS now has virtually 10 years of operational experience, with 38 ground reference stations and three operational GEOs. The FAA said that WAAS is achieving 99 percent availability over the continental U.S., and good service coverage extends well into South America and up into Alaska and Canada. Phase IV WAAS during 2014-2028 will see the change-over from use of L2 to L5 for measuring and generating ionospheric corrections, and a new GEO is planned for procurement around 2015-2018. Almost 2,000 LPV precision approaches have been commissioned at 1,900 U.S. airports — +60,000 aviation users appear to be largely general aviation and to some extent scheduled airlines. The FAA is targeting expansion of the number of approaches by 2016 to more than 5,000.
- Beidou has aspirations to provide “sole-means” navigation capability in Western China where nothing else currently exists, and with 17 ground reference sites hopes that CAT I approaches could be supported.
- Todd Walter of Stanford University is working with the FAA, preparing for definition of the service to be provided by the coming L1/L5 dual-frequency GEOs — a long and winding road through pending RTCA committee discussions — but Todd had some good proposals to eliminate redundant data and achieve high-integrity aviation navigation when L5 SBAS service comes on line. The FAA needs industry to look at these proposals and provide feedback so that L5 WAAS signal definition is available for when they want to get their L1/L5 GEOs procured, developed and online.
That’s where we have a problem right now, as on-orbit GPS L5 initial operational capability (IOC) was being projected at the show to have slipped all the way out to 2020. So manufacturers are not ready to put resources and money into this effort until some hint of commercial return might be possible. But with GPS dual-frequency L1/L5 being a cornerstone of the FAA’s NextGen, we have to expect that there will be continued pressure to keep launching satellites, that RTCA L5 definition activities will have to move forward, and heck, we should even expect to see people making use of those L5 signals that are available in novel and unexpected ways. Manufacturers who have already taken the plunge and started up L1/L5 receiver development also need specs to be firmed up so they can field these receivers when there is service, so the FAA, Todd, and others need RTCA to move along and industry to support the activity. It would also help to see a firmed-up L5 constellation launch schedule, too.