Survey & Construction Newsletter, Early September 2008

September 3, 2008  - By
Image: GPS World

Civil P(Y) follow-up and ION GNSS

I figure it’s about time for a follow-up newsletter on the Civil P(Y) sunset proposal by the GPS Wing.

In June, I wrote a very important column about the GPS Wing proposing to discontinue supporting P(Y) on L1/L2 for civilian users after December 31, 2020. Essentially it would mean that many dual frequency receivers of today will be rendered obsolete after that date.

The U.S. Department of Commerce attempted to solicit comments from the public regarding the proposal. You can view the responses here. I was somewhat surprised at how few responses were submitted.

It is predictable that equipment manufacturers are in favor of the proposal. There is significant upside for them in terms of new equipment sales and little downside, if any at all. The objections again, predictably, are from the users in the trenches who have invested a significant amount of their own capital into high precision GPS equipment.

I can see a several reasons for the lack of responses:

  • Users aren’t aware of that impact this may have on their operations.
  • It’s too far in the future for users to be concerned.
  • It’s far enough in the future that users feel technology will change and render this a non-issue.

Of course, I think it’s a little bit of all three. The first is the one that concerns me the most. That’s why I supported an extension to the comment period (30 days). I strongly believe there is a general lack of awareness of the subject at all, not to mention the impact it will have. If surveyors/technicians around the world haven’t been keeping up with the trade publications these past three months, they have no clue what’s in store for them.

The second and third assume the user is educated on the issue and has made conscious decision not to be concerned.

A few of you asked for a list of specific model numbers which will be affected. I’m working on one, but I don’t think it will ever be comprehensive enough to be 100 percent complete. What I tell people is that if the receiver isn’t able to utilize at least L2C (preferably L5 also), then it’s considered a legacy receiver and will be affected by the GPS Wing’s proposal. If you have any question as to whether your receiver can utilize L2C, you should contact the manufacturer of the equipment. Keep in mind that most companies begin to phase out support for older products (so called EOL or end of life models) after a few years, and some manufacturers may no longer exist at all.

If you confirm your receiver uses legacy technology, I wouldn’t be in a panic to take action now. I have a feeling that manufacturers will offer some sort of trade-in program at some point. It may not be for another 7 to 10 years from now, but I think they will. The exception would be that if prices for high precision GNSS receivers drop dramatically (looking out 7 to 10 years from now) because of fierce competition, they will be so low that manufacturers won’t be able to afford it. But then you probably won’t care as much anyway.

As I mentioned in the last newsletter (about the ESRI conference), I spoke briefly with Col. Madden, Commander of the GPS Wing, about the Civil P(Y) sunset proposal. Quite a straight-forward guy if I can say so. He says that maintaining backward compatibility in GPS is becoming increasingly expensive and that they have to draw the line somewhere.

“Whether it’s 10 or 20 years, we don’t care,” said Madden. “But we need to put a marker down.” He said it currently costs $2.5 million per day to maintain GPS. In 2009, he said that cost will rise to $3.5 million to $4 million per day.

The December 31, 2020 date is not final yet, but all indications are that it will indeed be the date. I should learn more at the Institute of Navigation (ION) GNSS conference held in Savannah, Georgia in a couple of weeks.

I’m at ION

Speaking of the ION GNSS conference, I’m on the agenda for the CGSIC meeting prior to the conference. The DOT has been pushing their NDGPS agenda pretty hard this past year to try to save the program. That’s fine, but I get a little ticked off every time I hear them tell people that WAAS isn’t a valid technology for mapping. Hey, if you think NDGPS is the way to go for you, then talk about NDGPS and stop trying to bring down other programs to further your cause.

So anyway, I think a little equal time is in order. I’ll be presenting on how WAAS is being used for mapping. I picked out a half a dozen or so organizations around North America that are using WAAS with high performance GPS receivers. There are some neat examples of where WAAS is being used in places you might not think possible, and also how WAAS is being used by centimeter-level GPS equipment to speed up initialization times.

I’m sorry I can’t include examples of EGNOS (Europe) and MSAS (Japan) users in the presentation, but I’ve only got 15 to 20 minutes. But I’ll be sure to mention EGNOS, MSAS, and GAGAN as well. I know you are all alive and well.

Be sure to follow the live coverage that I and my fellow editors will be providing from Savannah the week of Sept. 15-19.

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