Intellectual Property Rights – the sky is the limit?

On 13/07/2012, in Satellite Navigation, by steve

That Apple and Samsung are at each other’s throats over the Galaxy range of smartphones and tabs is no news. Of course if we look at the details, the situation is nothing short of ridiculous. Basically, Apple had claimed originally that not only did the interface on the Galaxy infringe its patents, but the form of the tab was in fact a direct copy of a sketch they had submitted as part of a patent application many years earlier… Now the latest incarnation of the Galaxy phone will only exist in colors that Apple does not use and will have the corners of the case rounded in a way that does not exist on the iPhone. All this because Samsung got wind of Apple preparing for a patent infringement suite against Samsung based on the form of the Galaxy case.

What does this have to do with aviation you might ask.

Well, one would think that this kind of wrangling happens only in the consumer sphere and in aviation we have more serious players. One would be wrong.

Once upon a time, Europe and the US had gotten together to work out a solution to some problems between GPS and Europe’s upcoming Galileo system. Experts from the US and Europe crafted a signal structure that made Galileo interoperable with GPS while making the services better for the users of either system.

Normally, the matter would have been closed at that point in the happy knowledge that once Galileo is launched, receivers built to the new standard would work with both GPS and the European me-too system. But things took a nasty turn when Ploughshare Innovations, the wholly owned research and development division of the British Ministry of Defense started to go around the US and Europe, laying claim to the intellectual property rights of the new signal structure and in some cases demanding a royalty from receiver manufacturers.

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Satellite-based landing system certified – GBAS debut at Bremen Airport

On 24/02/2012, in Satellite Navigation, by steve

The satellite-based precision approach system GBAS (Ground Based Augmentation System) has received the German type certification as a primary landing system by the Federal Supervisory Authority for Air Navigation Services (BAF) and may be used independently of the instrument landing system (ILS) which has been is use for decades for instrument flights.

Greeting the Air Berlin crew that flew the first regular Cat I approach using GBAS

At Bremen Airport, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung will be the first air navigation service provider in the world to operate GBAS for CAT I precision approaches for regular air services. GBAS provides digital guidance for precision approaches using a Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS). The system boosts the accuracy and integrity of GPS by transmitting corrections to the aircraft. Currently, GBAS is being installed at airports as a supplement to ILS. In the future, GBAS will replace ILS when all aircraft are equipped with the appropriate on-board receivers.

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Big brother in the sky

On 18/05/2011, in Satellite Navigation, by steve

Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) is only now starting to make inroads as a surveillance means more accurate and cost-effective than traditional radar. With the ground infrastructure slowly being built, someone has already come up with a new idea: why not put the ADS-B receivers on satellites and start a surveillance service that covers every nook and cranny of the planet, oceans and the deepest mountain valleys included, and sell the service to Air Navigation Service Providers? Whether as a second layer of surveillance or as the primary one, the satellite based solution promises to be much cheaper in deployment and cost of usage than the already not too expensive ground ADS-B network.

This is a very innovative and absolutely market oriented approach that is of course not without some risk. That surveillance data is essential is not in question. Whether ANSPs will be ready to relinquish their hold on the surveillance infrastructure and go for a more efficient and cheaper solution that is as good as or better than the existing heavy iron is the big question of course.

In any case, Iridium thinks the risk is worth taking. These are the same folks whose first attempt at bringing us satellite telephones was a flop but who have risen from the ashes offering more interesting and viable solutions.

Of course the idea is logical and the timing is good. With both Europe and the USA heading towards all aircraft being equipped with ADS-B, broadcasting their GPS derived position and other information for everyone who cares to listen to hear, a system not limited by geography or topography to pick up and forward the broadcast information makes perfect sense, especially if the cost of its deployment and operation is comparable or less than that of a ground based ADS-B network.

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Jamming GPS – No bad guys needed, the FCC will do it for you!

On 16/03/2011, in Satellite Navigation, by steve

Whenever a discussion is started about whether or not we should entrust aircraft navigation to GPS, there will be at least one person raising the issue of jamming. This is the specter of a single bad guy with a little black box purchased on eBay for a few bucks creating havoc in air navigation by jamming the signals of the GPS satellites. As you know, these signals coming from space are extremely weak and the system disengages and stops guidance the moment there is even the slightest doubt about their integrity. Hence the possibility of mischief with just the simplest means.

Losing GPS will not make any aircraft fall immediately from the sky but not having the precision guidance on which the new GNSS procedures rely is akin to having the ILS pulled from under you in Cat III conditions. It is survivable but traffic will be severely handicapped until the service is restored.

It looks now that we will not have to worry about the bad guys. A much bigger threat comes from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and a company called LightSquared. Worse, if LightSquared has its way, scores of other companies rushing to satisfy mobile broadband services might all become potential threats to GPS. So what is the problem?

Companies like LightSquared provide mobile satellite services and there is of course big money in this. In order to increase the capacity of its service, LightSquared is planning to set up a huge number of terrestrial base stations that will operate in the part if the L-band just adjacent to the L1 frequency used by all GPS receivers. These ground stations (effectively a kind of cell-phone operation) transmit at powers that can effectively overload most GPS receivers.

How could something like this come to pass?

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EGNOS Safety of Life Service Available Since Yesterday

On 03/03/2011, in Satellite Navigation, by steve

The European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) has officially declared the start of the EGNOS Safety-of-Life Service as of March 2nd 2011 following EC authorisation to provide the service.

The EGNOS Safety-of-Life (SoL) Service consists of signals for timing and positioning intended for most transport applications – especially in the domain of aviation- where lives could be endangered if the performance of the navigation system is degraded.

Prior to this date and according to the Single European Sky regulations, ESSP, the EGNOS Service Provider, went through a process of Certification to become an Air Navigation Services Provider and a final acceptance from the French National Supervisory Authority (NSA) had to be achieved.

The EGNOS SoL Service, its coverage area, its expected performances and conditions of use are described in the EGNOS Safety-Of-Life Service Definition Document (SDD).

Once the EGNOS SoL Service has been declared available, Air Navigation Service Providers in the EGNOS service area may proceed with the publication of SBAS precision approach procedures  based on EGNOS, once they have established working agreements with ESSP as required by the SES regulation.

In 2003, the airspace users were less than enthusiastic about EGNOS… see here. It will be interesting to see how a decade of changes has affected the community’s perception of this baby…


Troubled Galaxy

On 07/07/2010, in Satellite Navigation, by steve

That space around planet Earth is teeming with man-mad objects is common knowledge and not so long ago we got a good demonstration of what happens when stray metal hits another satellite. For a time it was unclear where a sizeable piece of junk would fall on the surface of the Earth.

The satellites serve a variety of purposes from serving up television to providing internet access and guiding aircraft. It is no exaggeration to say that our modern world would be paralyzed should there be a mass extinction of orbiting satellites. But how robust or fragile is this system in reality?

Galaxy 15 is an Intelsat bird which went out of control in April and has been drifting from its assigned orbital slot ever since. It has threatened to interfere with the functioning of nearby satellites and efforts by ground engineers to disable its payload have initially been unsuccessful.

Does this have an impact on aviation? You bet!

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