“GPS 101” was the title of the GPS Caucus inaugural event last week at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The caucus was recently formed by Senators Ernst and Duckworth and Representatives Loebsack and Bacon, with the support of the GPS Innovation Alliance.
Among the many topics discussed at the event were the extensive benefits of GPS to the nation’s economy, the need to protect the spectrum used by GPS and other GNSS, and the need for backup systems.
Representative Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) kicked off the event citing the many benefits of precision agriculture made possible by GPS. These include reduced costs for fertilizer, seed, and fuel, while allowing much better use of irregular plots of land.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) also spoke briefly citing her experiences as an Army helicopter pilot before and after the introduction of GPS. “GPS changed everything and made us much more effective,” she said. “The last thing I did after my helicopter was shot down in Iraq was push the button to send our GPS position to higher headquarters so they would know where the hostile action was.”
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Air Force Colonel Curtis Hernandez, Director National Security Space Policy for the National Space Council, also spoke and mentioned the system’s economic impact. Estimating it to be about $3 trillion a year, he conceded that even such a large number might be too low. Quoting Greg Milner, the author of “Pinpoint – How GPS is changing technology culture, and our minds,” Hernandez asked “What’s the value of oxygen?”
Col. Hernandez also said that GPS is a critical component of our national infrastructure and backup capabilities are needed.
A panel discussion with representatives from John Deere, Trimble, and Garmin rounded out the hour-long event. Each panelist addressed the importance of GPS to the nation and referred to the need for undisturbed spectrum. Follow-on questions from the audience included one on the need for GPS alternatives in the event of outages, which the panel agreed with, and one about equitable spectrum allocation. As to this later question, a panelist offered that the GPS Innovation Alliance supported a “zoning approach” that kept space-based signals separate from terrestrial signals.