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Alternatives to the Global Positioning System

At present anyone in the world who wants to use satellite navigation is using the American system (known as GPS of course) deployed by The Department of Defense. The Russians have their own system called Glonass and have just last month agreed to cooperate with India to launch a new generation of Glonass navigation satellites. Some GPS chipset manufacturers offer chipsets that utilize both GPS and Glosnass satellites. Theoretically that makes many more satellites available. Can that help wildlife biologists using satellite navigation collars? Well, not right now and don’t hold your breath.

And then there is Galileo, the EU’s answer to GPS. This system promises to offer better accuracy than GPS and a built in system for 2 way communication. That means that your GPS data can be transmitted very efficiently (compared to current methods) from the collar to you without you having to go into the field to get a remote download. However, Galileo is a hodgepodge of countries working together to create the system. Morocco just joined the fray as the first African nation to become involved in Galileo. Several European nations are involved and China, Israel and India have all provided financial support. Discussions with countries far and wide are also underway in an effort to gain more financial support.
Yesterday the first satellite of the Galileo system was taken to the Baikonour Russia cosmodrome in anticipation of a December 26 launch. Although it offers promise of advantages over the American GPS system, don’t hold your breath for this one either. I doubt that it will be available for use before 2010 and maybe even longer than that.

Quintin


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