The European Commission has announced the official start of operations of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), a satellite based augmentation system (SBAS) that improves the accuracy of the current US Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russian GLONASS system signals from about ten meters to two meters. Like the U.S. GPS, the EGNOS Open Service is accessible free of charge to any user equipped with a GPS/SBAS compatible receiver within the EGNOS coverage area, which includes most European states and has the built-in capability to be extended to other regions, such as North Africa and EU neighboring countries. Most receivers sold today in Europe meet that requirement.
EGNOS is composed of transponders aboard three geostationary satellites and a ground network of about 40 positioning stations and four control centers, all interconnected. It is Europe’s first contribution to satellite navigation, and is a precursor to Galileo, the global satellite navigation system being developed by the European Union (EU), which will be accurate down to the meter range and should be operational by 2013. The EU says it is committed to supporting EGNOS long term, even after Galileo becomes operational. This includes extending its geographical scope within the coverage of the three satellites involved.
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The system can support new applications in a variety of sectors such as agriculture - with high-precision spraying of fertilizers, for example - or transport, enabling automatic road-tolling or pay-per-use insurance schemes. It can also support much more precise personal navigation services, such as those to guide blind people. EGNOS will also be certified for use in aviation and other safety-critical areas, in compliance with the Single European Sky regulation. A Safety-of-Life service, that provides a warning message informing the user within six seconds in the case of a malfunction of the system, is expected to be in place by mid 2010.