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EGNOS: EU satellite for African skies?

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"An already completed cost-benefit analysis of deploying a system like EGNOS calculates a gain of €1bn for African society", says Fabio Pirotta, spokesperson for the EU's Enterprise and Idustry Commissioner, Antonio Tajani

This is an article selected from "The Courier" (journalist Debra Percival) on cooperation between the European Union and the African Union on the improvement of satellite communication, one of the options being the EU's very own EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System).

The African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) are cooperating on how to improve satellite communication navigation in African skies to enhance safety and propel the continent’s economic development forward. One option is to extend the EU’s own European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) to the whole of the African continent, its benefits extending to aviation and beyond.

The EU wants to extend EGNOS to Africa which uses existing navigation satellite constellations (GPS, Glonass) and potentially, Galileo - a system of 30 satellites in medium orbit in development).

When jointly used with the existing Global Positioning System (GPS) and other satellite constellations presently under development, EGNOS will reduce accidents on approach and landing particularly for regional airports without traditional navigational aids. EGNOS consists of three geostationary satellites and a network of ground stations. It transmits a signal containing information on the reliability and accuracy of the positioning signals sent out by GPS and allows its users to determine their position to within 1.5 metres. Aircraft flying over the northern part of the African continent can already receive information from ground systems placed in North Africa.

“Aircraft from the EU to Africa and vice versa will be able to use the same navigation instruments over both continents. It is also worth mentioning that the same signal is being used in the USA and in Japan, and is being developed in India and Russia”, says Fabio Pirotta, spokesperson for the EU’s Enterprise and Industry Commissioner, Antonio Tajani. “An already completed cost-benefit analysis of deploying a system like EGNOS calculates a gain of €1bn for African society,” adds Pirotta.

Improved air transport navigation and safety standards in African skies were priorities pinpointed at the first Africa-EU aviation high-level meeting in Windhoek, Namibia in April 2009. The potential of an EGNOS-like system was identified in the first Action Plan of the 8th partnership of the Africa-EU strategy dealing with Science, Information Society and Space.

The political go-ahead from the EU for EGNOS (or a similar system) for Africa and a decision on the allimportant issue of funding could come at the end of year at the Africa-EU Summit to be held in Tripoli, Libya on 29-30 November 2010, says Pirotta. “The building of EGNOS has cost over €700M to cover Europe. Any solution to cover Africa would involve sharing part of the EGNOS infrastructure and would hence cost substantially less”, he adds.

The sky’s the limit

Beyond aviation, EGNOS has spin-offs in other sectors and could be applied to improve knowledge of the positioning of seagoing vessels, animal husbandry and land management as well applications in the oil and mining industries.

Written by Debra Percival, Journalist with The Courier – http://www.acp-eucourier.info

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