New Delhi, India: The Airport Authority of India (AAI) is all set to launch GPS-aided GEO-augmented navigation system (GAGAN) in July 2013. S Sundara Raman, Executive Director (communication, navigation & surveillance), AAI, said “airlines can save 20 per cent on their fuel costs,” with the launch of GAGAN.
GAGAN will catapult India into an elite league in air navigation: this is only the fourth such system in the world, after that of the US, European Union and Japan. “It”s an eye in the sky,” said Amber Dubey partner, aviation, KPMG. “With ground-based systems (the current system), there”s a need to have systems at every few kilometre. Here, one satellite tracks everything, and far more accurately.”
GAGAN is a superior version of the current GPS system: it can detect activity at a finer level. So, while aircraft in India currently keep a distance of 80-100 miles, GAGAN will reduce this to 30 miles. This will allow thrice as many planes to fly, and reduce congestion on busy routes, as well as make Indian skies safer. Raman expects a six-fold increase in time. He also estimates airlines to reduce their flying time on the Delhi-Mumbai route by 10 minutes.
A senior SpiceJet technical official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that airlines don”t take a straight line between two destinations. “We take pre-determined routes set by the air traffic control centre. For example, between Delhi and Bangalore, we have to take a detour over Bhopal and do a series of deviations that add up to a much longer route,” he said. “After GAGAN, we will have what is called ”freedom flights”, leading to reduced fuel burn by 18-20 per cent.”
GAGAN will also make Indian skies safer. For example, while landing, the current system gives an aircraft the coordinates of a landing strip in a range of 20 metres. GAGAN will give it in a range of 20 feet, thus reducing the possibility of human error. The signals on GAGAN will be beamed by three satellites of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), located at a height of about 36,000 km. Two of these satellites have been launched, while the third one is expected to go up by 2013.
A total of 15 ground stations in India, being set up by US defence technology company Raytheon, will back the three satellites. “The certification by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA, the aviation regulator) is scheduled soon after completion of the operational testing performed by AAI in 2013,” says William L Blair, president, Raytheon India.
The fourth partner in the project is Mitre Corporation, another American engineering and technology company that is doing the certification of the AAI equipment, something it had done for the corresponding American system.
Besides boosting the financial numbers of airlines, GAGAN will also help the Airports Authority of India (AAI). In 2010-11, the latest period for which its financials are available, AAI earned 65 per cent of its INR 5,139-crore revenues from air-navigation services.
Basically, AAI charges every plane flying over the Indian air space, even those that do not land on it. Raman said the AAI expects to treble its revenues from air-navigation services by 2015, riding on GAGAN. “About 8-12 per cent of the operating cost of an airline goes to air-navigation charges,” said Dubey of KPMG.