This revolution in navigation is the outcome of the development of a military satellite navigation system called the Global Positioning System/NAVSTAR, developed in the 1970s under the direction of Bradford W. Parkinson, now Stanford professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and a U.S. Air Force colonel at the time.

The story of the system began Oct. 4, 1957, when the Soviets launched

What has sputnik to do with driving?


the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. A theory of knowing where a satellite was at any given time could be used researchers concluded to determine an individual’s position in relation to that satellite. Using more than one satellite allows for a process of triangulation to occur whereby as such an individuals position can be checked and rechecked against other such satellites to confirm their position.

The application of such a system was firstly thought to benefit only military activities – in particular submarines, but within a short while, particularly when altitude could also be determined by the use of such systems, the air force saw potential benefits.

Navigation systems were only available to the military worlds of guided missiles until a tragedy under suspicious circumstances involving the civilian Korean jetliner KAL 007 in 1983 which involved the plane straying into foreign territory. It was following this incident that the then President of the United States of America, Ronald Regan  directed that the American GPS system be available to aid transport companies such as civilian airlines, shipping companies and other civilian bodies and prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy.  The Satellite Navigation industry was thus formed with annual worldwide sales increasing at an ever expending rate subsequently. In 2020 it is estimated that the annual market for the industry will be €300 billion with 3 billion receivers in use. [1](Source: European Commission).

This obviously means that the civilian market has overtaken the military one in a significant way but what systems are currently being used and what advances are there in the future? Future posts will tell all




Agreement between Galileo and the Global Positioning System (GPS) Published by the European Union on the occasion of the EU-US Summit, Dromoland Castle, Ireland, 26 June 2004, – Source: European Commission)