Because of their very red colours and intrinsic faintness, field brown dwarfs will represent a small but valuable subset of the GAIA catalogue. The return of the astrometric satellite is expected to be important because of the inherent difficulty of obtaining good parallaxes in general and for this class of objects in particular. Our first estimates show that, due to the photometric sensitivity of the astrometric CCD (ASM1) towards relatively blue objects, GAIA is unlikely to detect field brown dwarfs that have not been already seen is previous near-IR surveys, to the notable exception of the galactic plane region. The real advantage of GAIA over ground-based surveys will be the very accurate (to within a few percents) astrometric data for a few thousands brown dwarfs. These data should permit a detailed mapping of the transition region between stellar and substellar regimes, together with the kinematical and density patterns of the youngest brown dwarfs in our neighbourhood.