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Europe on track with satellite navigation

Galileo, the EU’s global satellite navigation system, will be launched in 2014. EGNOS, which improves the accuracy of GPS across Europe, already provides services to users like farmers and rescue workers.

A report on the EU’s two satellite navigation programmes finds progress so far has been satisfactory and that the bloc remains committed to completing them.

The EU began developing its own satellite navigation programmes 10 years ago for strategic and economic reasons. Today, these reasons remain at the core of the programmes.

Recognising the key role satellite navigation plays in modern society, member governments agreed that Europe needed to secure its independence from the US’ GPS and Russia’s Glonass systems.

Galileo and EGNOS are owned by the EU and are dedicated to fulfilling the bloc’s economic and security needs.

Like the Internet, satellite navigation is an economic catalyst for innovation and job creation in a wide range of sectors. Currently about €800bn of European GDP depends on the use of satellite navigation. The global market for such products and services has been growing at a rate of 30% over the past few years and is expected to be worth €240bn by 2020, according to estimates.

Accuracy, availability, reliability

EGNOS, and later on Galileo, will substantially improve the availability and accuracy of navigation signals from space. Users should get quicker, more reliable signals and be able to locate their positions to within one metre. GPS currently locates only to within several metres.

Greater accuracy, availability and reliability allow businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate. For example, the systems can be used to improve management of the EU’s transport and emergency services, law enforcement, security at the EU’s borders and the safety of peace missions.

EGNOS, operational since October 2009, already provides benefits like increased crop production through more accurate seeding and fertilizer spraying. This year, it is expected to be approved for use by Europe’s airlines, providing greater security for passengers.

Meanwhile, Galileo’s two test satellites are already in orbit. The EU will launch the first four operational satellites this year and next. From then on, two satellites will be launched every three months until initial operations begin in 2014. PM & Picture © European Commission

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