The current state of and future of GPS

James Fallows recently wrote a short post on the Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association (COPA) blog mentioning that the worldwide GPS system run by the US government is at risk of “browning out.” In fact, he mentions a recent piece in Avionics Magazine entitled: “Fixing GPS: Almost half of the current constellation of GPS satellites are at or approaching ‘single thread’ operation, where a critical system failure could render a satellite inoperative. What are the options for replacing GPS satellites?” The article begins by stating:

“Brownout" is probably the last term one would ever think of using in association with the Global Positioning System. So when a Stanford University professor briefed a congressional committee in May with a presentation entitled "Mitigation of Possible GPS Brownouts," some might have dismissed this as yet another academic exercise — but only those who didn’t recognize Professor Bradford Parkinson as the man popularly known and respected within the satellite navigation community as "the Father of GPS."

Enough said there. In addition, James also mentions a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal about building a better air-traffic-control system that would be more efficient and safer. However, these next generation systems have their supporters and critics alike and given the many other current priorities of the US and other governments, don’t look for their implementation anytime soon.

Either way, both articles are well worth a read by anyone interested in the current state of this critical piece of aviation infrastructure.

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One Response to The current state of and future of GPS

  1. Sylvia October 27, 2009 at 22:15 #

    That's interesting. As we get more and more connected, it seems like a single point of failure is going to become more and more likely?

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