New Organization Advocates for GPS Industry; Galileo Lives to Fly Another Day, Budget Passed; Safer Skies for EGNOS; and GLONASS in Brazil
New Organization Advocates for GPS Industry
A new group, the GPS Innovation Alliance, has formed and announced itself as the voice of the U.S. GPS industry and community of users, to “support the ever-increasing importance of GPS” in the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C. The organization subsumes and replaces both the U.S. GPS Industry Council, an entity of longstanding, and the Coalition to Save Our GPS, which arose in March 2011 in response to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conditional waiver granted to LightSquared.
The alliance appears to reflect a desire on the part of some industry members to take a more aggressive approach inside the Washington Beltway, a sign, it would seem, of the political times. Some of those involved spoke informally of a desire to take advantage of contacts made on Capitol Hill and in the media during the highly visible LightSquared combat, fought in the glare of media attention heretofore unknown in industry circles.
Members of the Alliance are drawn from a variety of fields and businesses reliant on GPS, as well as leading manufacturers of GPS equipment. The former group includes, aviation, agriculture, construction, transportation, first responders, and surveying and mapping, and consumer organizations representing users of GPS for boating and other outdoor activities, and in automobiles, smartphones, and tablets.
Joining John Deere, Garmin, and Trimble — three lead drivers of the Coalition effort at the FCC — are NovAtel Inc. and Topcon Positioning Systems. All five were previously long-time members of the USGIC, and they appear as founding members of the alliance at www.gpsalliance.org.
Affiliate members listed on the website include the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, National Association of Manufacturers, Association for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles International, and Boat Owners Association of the United States.
The alliance plans to build on “the proud heritage and extensive expertise of the United States GPS Industry Council (USGIC), which was formed in 1991 to promote broader commercial applications of GPS and to expand global markets while assisting in safeguarding the technology’s military advantages. The council has a long history of highly effective advocacy on behalf of the GPS industry, as well as serving as a trusted source of objective information for policy makers, the media and the public both in the U.S. and around the world.” The alliance website gives a longer statement about the history and record of the USGIC, highlighting its role in international negotiations.
Michael Swiek, executive director of the USGIC, has transitioned to become the executive director, executive branch and international, of the Innovation Alliance. In addition to working closely with leading offices of executive branch departments of the U.S. government, he will continue well-established dialogs with governmental, private sector and academic entities in areas critical to GPS and satellite navigation among key players in Europe, Japan, Russia, Korea, China, and elsewhere.
Heather Hennessey, a principal of Innovative Federal Strategies LLC, a “comprehensive government relations firm,” has taken the position of executive director, legislative, at the alliance. Hennessey has seven years of service in the House of Representatives, including two years as chief of staff for Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia.
An active voice in alliance representations on Capitol Hill will presumably be that of Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel for Trimble. Kirkland was the most prominent spokesperson for the coalition during the LightSquared battle, which appears to be either over or nearly so. “The alliance is committed to ensuring constructive, robust dialog between GPS users, manufacturers and policy makers on critical policy issues affecting GPS,” Kirkland said, “a commitment Trimble is pleased to be a part of as the industry continues to innovate and modernize.”
The alliance mission statement cites the importance of GPS to global economy and infrastructure; vows to aid further GPS innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship; and to protect, promote and enhance the use of GPS.
The GPS Innovation Alliance officially launched on February 13 with a reception on Capitol Hill, a traditional lobbying tactic that previous efforts had perhaps not envisioned. The organization has also hired a public relations firm, Prism Public Affairs, and commissioned a logo.
Galileo Lives to Fly Another Day, Budget Passed
European Union leaders approved a scaled-down budget in early February, with none of the cuts to the Galileo program that had been widely feared. The project, conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) under close supervision of the European Commission (EC), will draw on funding of 6.3 billion euros (about $8.5 billion) from 2014 to 2020. The satellite navigation program held onto its requested revised budget of 6.3 billion euros, even as telecommunications research and broadband deployment projects, including another ESA pet project, the somewhat related Copernicus Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), underwent severe cuts. Galileo has already spent more than 3 billion euros ($4 billion), three times its original budget, to launch four of an envisioned 30-satellite constellation.
The EU deliberative system requires unanimous approval of budget decisions, so what smaller countries seek for their farmers or fishermen carries practically equal weight to the desire of industrial/aerospace giants like Germany, closely followed by France and the United Kingdom. Negotiation is a delicate matter indeed, and reached an impasse in November 2012; resolution came only after a 24-hour marathon session of talks. The total budget represents the first decrease in the European Union’s history; austerity is the watchword in a region beset with an ongoing bevy of international debt crises and serious recession in many of the smaller EU countries.
Galileo supporters within the European Commission, the EU’s policy-making arm, continued to maintain that Galileo will “open a whole new world” for business to develop applications, as Antonio Tajani, EC vice president stated recently. The program drew strong support, for once, from powerful backers in the EU administrative capital, Brussels, and among industrial and political interests in key member states: France, Germany, and for an exception Britain, often a proponent of deep cuts.
Negotiators helped Galileo’s chances by placing it in a research group labeled “Competitiveness for Growth and Jobs.” This category actually rose in budget allocation by nearly 40 percent over the last seven-year allotment.
The allocation should cover operational costs for EGNOS and Galileo, the completion of the initial Galileo constellation of 14, and early procurement stages of a full, or second-generation orbiting set of 30.
The program still faces an extremely unlikely date for the establishment of early services by the end of 2014. “Then, the market, as well as the governments of the Member States, will start increasing their interest and promoting further investments,” the ever-optimistic Tajani maintained.
The budget must still secure approval by the European Parliament. Its president, Martin Schulz of Germany has stated, “The further we step away from the Commission’s proposed figures, the more likely the proposal will be rejected. More and more tasks, and less and less money — the inevitable result is budget deficits. The Parliament will not go along with this.”
Parliament’s decision is forecast for the summer months. Parliament’s budget power consists of a direct yes-or-no vote to accept or reject the budget. The body cannot make modifications, and if rejecting would simply send it back to the EU ministers to begin all over again. The picture is further complicated somewhat by the 20-nation make-up of ESA, whereas the European Union and its executive commission have 27 national members.
Results of a September 2012 flight test in the Galileo Test and Development Environment (GATE) near Berchtesgaden, Germany, the one place on Earth where Galileo services are already routinely available, show that adding Galileo signals to the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) should boost accuracy significantly. EGNOS augments the accuracy and reliability of GPS signals over Europe, rendering satnav usable for safety-critical applications such as aircraft guidance, as well as more general precision uses.
Operational horizontal and vertical distance “protection levels” for safety were cut by half by combining use of GPS and Galileo within EGNOS. In addition, new integrity algorithms installed within the user receiver turned out to reliably detect and exclude reflected or otherwise faulty signals.
Next-generation EGNOS, planned for 2020, is envisaged to augment both constellations and dual frequencies at the same time, making the system much more robust.
The first overseas GLONASS ground monitoring station for differential correction and monitoring outside Russian territory opened in Brasilia, Brazil, in mid-February. The station represents an early step in an initiative to modernize and significantly improve the accuracy of GLONASS signals.
Plans call for similar monitoring stations “in more than 30 countries of the world. Most of the countries that received the offers for the installation of the stations responded positively.However, the process is slow because of the need to conclude appropriate intergovernmental agreements. The documents with Brazil were signed in 2012. Agreements with Spain, Indonesia and Australia will be finalized soon,” according to a Pravda story.