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Galileo: Higher-Precision European GPS

The early US GPS was a great success, although its makers may have been surprised to find it was much more popular as a civil general-purpose system rather than for military purposes. Despite its many downsides, mainly because of it being built as a military system and having various countermeasures built in which had to be hacked into to make it usable for folks, it became the norm for people's GPS and Sat-Nav to use the military satellites to find their position.

The early military US GPS proved so very useful for civilian purposes, especially in Europe, that it became commonplace to use it. However, after a while, it was required that a higher precision system was available. So, in Europe, there was an idea to put up an improved additional system (which was a superset of the earlier GPS). The Galileo GPS was more modern and more accurate, and was primarily designed for civilian purposes, and it benefited from hindsight having seen what happened with USA GPS earlier.

Paranoids in European military may have felt a bit better about it too, as it meant their armed forces were no longer dependent on a major military power which could not be guaranteed 100% to be always on their side! However, for most folk, the main thing about Galileo was that it was much better in terms of precise accuracy, both technically with the initial specification, and also because it didn't have deliberate enemy-fooling error signals built in!

Initially the United States didn't take much notice of the European system, but at some point a realisation occurred, and before the first of the Galileo satellites got into orbit, the United States considered it a threat, and it was rumour that the USA then threatened to shoot down the European system if it didn't comply with the US being able to jam it.

So, beware! The European Galileo GPS is still not Pure GPS, and could be cut off at any time to any region of the world, at the whim of political powers that think there's a reason, in other words, for almost no reason at all.

Looking towards a future on this, as the main applications of GPS are civilian, it could end up being adopted worldwide, even in the United States, as the way to navigate. This will present an interesting situation, as although the US will be able to convince Europe to collaborate on turning off both US GPS and Euro GPS over, say, Somalia, (or whoever the USA's enemy is this week), it would be much more difficult for the USA to turn off GPS over France because of some minor diplomatic tiff. Europe could in theory then turn off high-accuracy GPS over Chicago, for example. It evens up the balance of power a little bit, but remember, it's still not Pure GPS where anyone can use it for any purpose. It could be that some day, GPS will have grown up to be like Linux, where it's usable by anyone, anywhere, anytime, even if the people using it don't happen to share the same views as oneself.

Here are a few European Galileo GPS links:




Also see Global Positioning System (general case), and suppliers of GPS equipment