Just like zip-code searches and color screens, automobile drivers may come to expect GLONASS as a standard feature rather than an extravagant option. Receiver manufacturers would then respond by producing dual-system processors—probably in such huge numbers that GPS-only receivers would become as rare as monochrome chartplotters. By that time, we could even be talking in terms of “multi-fuel” receivers, able to use the fledgling satellite systems that are now under development in both China and Europe. Indeed, by 2015 there could be more than 100 navigation satellites under the control of four independent operators available to civilian users!
Whether this is something to welcome or worry about, only time will tell. Some see security issues, but personally, I don’t imagine terrorists using satellite- positioning systems to locate bombs or aim weapons; they’re more like to rely on street maps and bus timetables. The people who really depend on satellite navigation are the delivery drivers, pilots, and shipmasters who keep our world moving. Anything that makes satellite navigation more accurate and reliable for them has got to be good news for all of us. And while our current dependence on GPS might make it a juicy target for the bad guys, the knowledge that we could instantly switch to any of two or three independent alternative systems would make attacking it pretty futile.
This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.