" This can be beneficial in averting such incidents (like MH 370) in the future, the official added."
By Rohit Vaid

New Delhi, Aug 17 - The Indian government plans to offer its newly-developed Gagan (GPS-aided geo augmented navigation) system to Southeast Asian countries to generate financial resources and showcase the country's next generation navigation and survelliance technologies.

Gagan is a satellite-based augmentation system which helps aircraft navigate by GPS, hitherto seen in passenger cars. It offers free enhanced satellite navigation signals over India that are 10 times more precise than GPS.

The advanced features of the system provide better accuracy, integrity and continuity of navigation services for various applications in the civil aviation sector by using data from satellites rather than ground-based radar tracking systems.

Currently AAI is working on show casing the technology to interested parties. The government is also in favour of sharing the new technology that can also be used in non-aviation sectors, a senior official of the Airports Authority of India told IANS at its Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan headquarters here.

The possible users might come from the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations). There are also plans to provide global navigation services by clubbing Gagan's capabilities with that of the US Global Positioning System (GPS), Russian GLONASS, European Galileo, Chinese Compass, Japanese Quasi Zenith Satellite System.

The system can also provide useful information in various non-avaition fields like vehicle tracking, intelligent highway systems, train tracking, disaster management, search and rescue operations, surveying land management through terrestrial mapping and marine and farming applications.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation G.M. Siddeshwara recently informed parliament that to promote the usage of Gangan in the non-avaition sector, AAI and the Indian Space Research Organisation have organised two user meets.

The space segment of the sysytem comprises of two satellites (GSAT8 and GSAT 10) provided by ISRO for Rs.774 crore ($127 million).

The systems is controlled from the Indian Master Control Centre in Bangalore and has 15 reference stations in India.

Other stakeholders in the system have also welcomed the move by AAI to share the next generation technology.

As part of our long-standing involvement in the US-India Aviation Cooperation Program (ACP), we are currently identifying new ways to collaborate with our Indian and US government partners in innovative ways to further support India in expanding its Gagan system, extending its coverage over greater areas, possibly in the neighboring region, said Nikhil Khanna, country director and senior executive - India for electronics major Raytheon.

We believe this supports India's economic and foreign policy objectives, while showcasing India as an aviation technology leader in the ASEAN region. It also provides potential revenue generation opportunities for the government of India, he added.

Recently, the importance of such a system was realized when Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 with 239 passengers and crew on board mysteriously vanished about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur early March 8. The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea and the search area was later widened off the Australian coast. The wreckage is yet to be located.

A senior official with the communications, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) arm of the AAI told IANS that satellite-based location systems like Gagan can be used in providing an aircraft's location to ground-based tracking units.

Gagan's job is to provide GPS-based location of the aircraft to pilots, thereby saving fuel. The system can also provide real-time satellite-based location to ground handlers, the CNS official said.

Gagan can work in various phases of the aircraft's flight from takeoff, cruising and landing. This system then can be used to pinpoint the exact location of the aircraft even if a crash has occurred.

This can be beneficial in averting such incidents (like MH 370) in the future, the official added.

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected])

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