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Indian Govt To Launch GPS-Like Navigation System By 2016: Report

India will start the process of setting up its indigenous satellite based navigation system (SBNS), by launching its first navigation satellite Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) in the second week of June 2013, reports The Times Of India, adding that this will be first of the seven navigation satellites to be launched.

Citing Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman K Radhakrishnan, the report said that this service will offer two types of services – a Standard Positioning Service for all citizens and a restricted service for Government and military purpose. Radhakrishnan also added that this service will allow them to launch several new satellite based services over the next two years, however he didn’t disclose any specific information on this.

This follows a similar report from January 2013, which had suggested that India will launch its first navigation satellite this year. Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) director S. Ramakrishnan had said that Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) will be launched with PSLV C-22 rocket and after all the seven satellites have been accurately positioned in the space, the government will be able to offer this navigation service.

While Ramakrishnan had previously noted that the service is expected to be launched in 2014, a recent The Hindu report suggests that the navigational satellite system will be available only by 2015-2016 and the remaining six navigation satellites are expected to be launched in the next 18 months.

Gagan To Be Operational In 2013: The report also added that Gagan (GPS aided geo augmented navigation) project is expected to be operational from 2013. Gagan is a regional satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) jointly developed by Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The service was expected to provide navigation data for India, Bay of Bengal, South-East Asia and Middle East region.

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In March 2011, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had approved a one-time grant of Rs 378 crore from the Government Budgetary Support for the implementation of Gagan project over Indian airspace for seamless navigation. CCEA had approved a total project cost of Rs 774 crore, of which AAI was expected to contribute Rs 604 crore and ISRO was expected to contribute Rs 170 crore.

The organization had then noted that the project was expected to be operational by May 2013. This was later extended to July 2013 by the Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh in December 2012. A month later, Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) director S. Ramakrishnan however said that the navigation service will be launched only in 2014, after all the seven satellites have been accurately positioned in the space.

Use Cases: AAI Chairman VP Agrawal said that this service will help them get accurate navigation data and information on the mountainous and aquatic regions in the country, as indicated by the report.

Besides the aviation sector, the government was also planning to using this navigation service in Marine Navigation sector, Train and Road Transport, Precision Farming, Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, Mining and Surveying and Mapping sectors.

Our Take: We are a bit curious on how would the standard positioning service compare against existing services like US Government’s GPS (Global Positioning service) and NIS Glonass’s satellite-based navigation service GLONASS (Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema). China’s BeiDou navigation service was also launched in December 2012 and currently covers the Asia-Pacific region while the European Union and the European Space Agency is building a satellite navigation system called Galileo.

It will also be worth watching if handset manufacturers and navigation solution providers will adopt this technology within their products and if the government will provide any special benefits to these device makers in a bid to increase the adoption of this satellite based navigation technology.

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Updates: Error in Headline has been corrected

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