If you are one of those boaters who think that GPS is the greatest thing since sliced bread, you may want to think again. For years I have encouraged students not to rely on only one source when navigating. You should be able to manually navigate from one point to another using something as simply as an up-to-date chart, calculator and plotting tools. This is not rocket science and can be easily learned by taking a Navigation Course such as the one offered at http://boatsafe.com/navigation.
Now here is the evidence that confirms that GPS may not be as reliable as you might think. GPS satellites by design are expected to last 7 to 12 years. Some may last longer but there is no guarantee. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) deterioration in navigation service is likely to begin during the next decade beginning in 2010. To make matters worse almost all Department of Defense (DOD) programs in place to upgrade the GPS system are either late, over budget or both. For instance, the new GPS IIF program is running three years late and the cost has ballooned from $729 million to an estimated $1.6 billion at its undefined completion date.
There are currently 24 satellites in use in the GPS constellation. A United Airlines spokesman has said that even a reduction to 23 satellites would negate several GPS-based procedures. A 21-satellite constellation could still be used by the military with supplemental systems but these would not be available for civilian use. A reduction to 18 satellites would be unacceptable for virtually all GPS based applications.
To read the entire article discussing the future of the GPS system as we know it go to http://aviationtoday.com/av/categories/military/35197.htm.