Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

China announces GPS rival Beidou is now offering navigation data

GPS satelliteIt seems I have been watching for the development of alternatives to Amercia’s NavStar GPS ever since I started using GPS seriously in the late 1990s.

Although receivers had been available for some years, I didn’t buy my own until they started to come with base maps and routing installed (and detailed road maps could be loaded into memory) as they were of limited value when they still had to used with paper maps. Believe it or not, Google Maps and the like did not even exist in those days – but were just around the corner. Then, you had to buy your own digital maps for use on computers, and they were not as detailed as today’s online mapping – unless you bought from Ordnance Survey, and they knew how to charge, since all national mapping was/is copyright.

Alternatives were a long way off, and the Americans even made their signal inaccurate with a random error inserted, just in case someone tried to use their own system to guide missiles onto the US.

Wind on a few decades, and Russia’s equivalent to America’s military NavStar GPS has been released to the public – globally – and is called GLONASS.

Europe also seeks to be independent of America’s system, and has Galileo, a GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) that has stumbled from financial crisis to crisis, almost been cancelled, and is now promised for 2019 (with local service in 2014). I’ve almost given up on this, and even held off on buying a new receiver at one time, such were the expectations. However, the various systems are said to be compatible, so provided hardware is new enough, it will work with all available signals. If similar to my existing receivers, then these will be able to be told which signals to use, where available.

India has been a great user of GPS for many years, and for reasons of independence from the US GPS system, has its own Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) coming online in 2014.

China has also been working towards independence in navigation, and this week saw the arrival of its system, Beidou, as a working product:

China’s satellite navigation system has become operational, according to an official.

Beidou now offered location, timing and navigation data to China and surrounding areas announced the project’s spokesman Ran Cheng.

China has been working on the system since 2000 to provide an alternative to the US government-run Global Positioning System (GPS).

The move should make China’s military less dependent on foreign technology.

A launch earlier this month delivered the tenth of Beidou’s satellites into orbit.

Beijing plans to send a further six satellites into space by 2012 to extend the system to most parts of Asia, and then expand the network to a total of 35 satellites offering global coverage by 2020.

Interested parties are invited to study a test version of the project’s Interface Control Document which has been placed online

via BBC News – China GPS rival Beidou starts offering navigation data.

Beidou Navigation Satellite System Interface Control Document


Dec 27, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, Maps, military | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bute’s wee ferry crossing could be extended to midnight

An intriguing variation on the various ways that the Isle of Bute’s ferry service could be extended appeared in the news.

While I’m sure some group or other will probably appear dedicated to rubbishing the proposal, it has the advantage of being workable and economic, if not ideal for those who want to play at living on an island.

I’m told by long-term residents that calls for extensions to the big ferry have been made by a vocal few in the past, and when this extended service was tried – next to nobody turned up to use it. It doesn’t take the greatest imagination in the world to work how expensive it is to sail the MVs Bute and Argyll between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay – empty. Once, let alone on a number of late night sailings.

THE Rhubodach-Colintraive ferry timetable could be extended through to midnight each day, the Scottish Government has suggested.

A draft plan for the future of the country’s ferry services suggests that extending the timetable of the Kyles crossing “could bring substantial benefit to the local economy”, while at the same time being the most cost-effective way of bridging the gap between Bute’s current service and a ‘needs based assessment’ which recommends an operating day from 6am until midnight.

via Kyles ferry crossing ‘could be extended to midnight’ – Local Headlines – The Buteman.

Such a proposal would certainly suit an occasional touring visitor like me, and reflects my normal journey to and from the island.

Being an owl rather than a lark, I amble down to Wemyss Bay in the morning (deliberately avoiding the busiest early sailings) and buy a Hopscotch ticket, allowing me to travel over on the big ferry, and return by the wee ferry when it suit me.

The wee ferry effectively runs run during daylight hours, so the last sailing off the island during summer is between 21:00 and 22:00 (depending when I am there), but more importantly for me, it runs later than the big ferry – a difference I have often depended on.

Unlike the failed and wasteful extensions tried on the big ferry (not my assessment, but that of islanders I knew at the time), I hope this one at least gets a trial run for a while, and is not dismissed out of hand by the ‘vocal few’.

A little different from the usual view on the water, one of the wee ferries (which would be MV Loch Dunvegan if the name was in view, and RoRo sister MV Loch Alain behind) caught recently by Zak as it prepares for its next trip across the waters, which sees it risk itself daily (I’m funning!) to bridge the gap of almost 300 metres between the mainland and the island at the Kyles of Bute:

Wee Bute ferry

The wee ferry, MV Loch Dunvegan, at Rhubodach © Zak

Dec 27, 2011 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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