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From the Agri-Data Management Corner

By Gary Grimm
Agri-Data Management Manager

For those not already aware, a new differential GPS signal is on the horizon. The Federal Aviation Administration has been working on correcting the raw GPS signal using a Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). The system is being developed specifically for the aviation community but will be available to the general public in the continental United States.

Initial time tables projected that this system would be up and running in the fall of 2000. However, more recent reports from the FAA indicate that problems encountered during the testing phase will delay the complete operation to sometime in the year 2002. Currently the WAAS system is broadcasting test signals that can be used, but it should be noted that the quality of the signal may be marginal at best.

What will WAAS mean to agriculture users when it is fully operational? Right now there are basically two sources of differential correction available, the Coast Guard Beacon and the L-Band satellite subscription service. When the FAA has their system fully operational, there will be one more source of correction free of charge. This is one phrase that is very appealing in today's ag economy.

Not unlike the L-Band network currently providing subscription service to many users, the FAA has designed the WAAS system to perform in much the same way. There are 25 ground stations located across the U.S. that relay data to two stations located in Los Angeles and Washington. This information is corrected and sent to geo-synchronous satellites, which in turn send the signal to users' receivers. The published accuracy of WAAS is five meters, but users may see better accuracy once the system is certified.

If you have a receiver that you are wondering if it is compatible to WAAS, it is best to contact your vendor to get the specific information. Some manufactures have advertised WAAS capabilities and have said that depending on the number of channels available in an existing receiver, it would be possible to dedicate one channel to the WAAS signal through firmware upgrades.

To keep up to date on the continuing developments of the WAAS system you can log on the World Wide Web and go to the FAA web page or click on this link: FAA Newsletter.

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