Curbs on Galileo keep planes safe

The International Telecommunications Union has drawn up rules to stop Europe's new satellite position system affecting aeroplanes

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has introduced regulations that will prevent Europe's planned satellite positioning system, Galileo, from interfering with aircraft safety.

The ITU allocated new frequency bands to satellite navigation service in 2000 prompting a series of studies on how the move might impact terrestrial radio air navigation services.

There were fears that the constellation of satellites in the proposed Galileo fleet would transmit signals that would confuse aircraft electronic navigation equipment operating within the same radio frequency range.

In response to those concerns, the body has limited the power of signals from satellite equipment operating within the newly allocated radio frequencies.

Mark Loney, Australian Communications Authority, executive manager Radiofrequency Planning, said that without the regulations, airlines and aeronautical industry companies such as Air Services Australia could have been forced into costly upgrade exercises.

"It would potentially become a very expensive problem very quickly because they would have to go around and change the equipment on the ground and perhaps update what's in aircraft," said Loney.

Most of Australia's air radio navigation equipment is operated by Air Services Australia, which has previously expressed concern about the new GPS service.

Unlike the existing GPS, which was set-up and maintained by US military authorities before being handed over to the US coast guard for civil applications, Galileo is designed for commercial and public use.

A private-public infrastructure project, the consortium behind Galileo will offer commercial and civil users service guarantees for a fee.

Plans to get the Galileo off the ground began in earnest early last month, with the signing of contracts for two experimental satellites due to be launched in the second-half of 2005.

The two satellites must start transmitting signals by June 2006 in order for the European consortium to maintain rights to radio frequency allocations set aside for Galileo.