Andrew Doyle/LONDON

Hand-held global-positioning-system (GPS) receivers incorporating two-way short-messaging capabilities will be available to general-aviation pilots from the third quarter of 1997, according to international mobile satellite-communications provider Inmarsat.

Technology is being developed to take advantage of the new Inmarsat D service, launched on 3 December. The Inmarsat D is designed to provide a low-cost, low-volume, satellite-based messaging system, which can also be used to multi-cast generic information such as weather reports.

The multi-cast service is already operational, initially through Station 12 of the Netherlands, but two-way messaging will not be available until mid-1997.

According to Bashir Patel, Inmarsat's programme manager, the hand-held units will provide GPS navigation data, and the use of a mailbox for transmitting and receiving messages such as weather updates. "In an emergency, the pilot will be able to send an alert via a mailbox," says Patel.

The Inmarsat communications satellites also transmit GPS signals, complementing the existing GPS constellation, so helping to improve system availability and integrity. Inmarsat says that wide-area, differential GPS services, with an accuracy of 5-10m, are under development for hand-held devices. The hand-held GPS units, which are being developed by Calian, IAT, JRC and STN Atlas, are expected to retail at $500-700, according to Patel.

Source: Flight International