Aviation bodies in the region want airport control systems to migrate to the cheaper, more efficient and safer satellite navigation type.
Currently, the ground-based navigation system is used to manually support aeroplanes in landing, departure and surface operations. But sector players say this system is outdated, making it less effective than the satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS).
The space-based system provides more accurate information to aeroplanes.
At a recent meeting in Kigali, the East African Community and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development set a deadline of December 2018 for this migration.
The satellite-based system will be supported by the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (Egnos).
“It is an evolution like any normal wireless connection, where you can send or receive accurate data at a very low cost,” said director of Egnos Africa Ladislaus Matindi in an interview last week.
“This technology has helped European countries to increase the efficiency and safety of air transport, and cut costs of navigating planes by over $500 million a year.”
The satellite system can cover the whole continent including remote areas that are hard to access.
Rwanda’s Minister of State for Transport, Alexis Nzahabwanimana, said that the current capacity and efficiency of the air navigation system in Africa are among the bottlenecks to the implementation of progressive policies.
“Our air navigation systems have to be re-visited if the continent is to benefit from projects such as the single African air transport market. I believe it is from this perspective that EAC and Igad are exploring possibilities of implementing the satellite services in the East and Horn of Africa,” said Dr Nzahabwanimana.
The African Union Space Policy and Strategy adopted this year calls for the adoption of satellite navigation systems to a wide range of economic sectors, especially transport.