GPS: Solar Flares and Jamming

GPS: Solar Flares and Jamming

satellite_1653031aBBC Radio 4 describes how easy it is to jam GPS and that even solar flares can affect the navigation system. Among those interviewed in the show is Professor Catherine Mitchell of the University of Bath who describes the impact of Solar Flares on GPS systems.

The BBC description of the show says:

We all rely on GPS – the Global Positioning System network of satellites – whether we want to or not. From shipping to taxis to mobile phones, the goods we consume and the technology with which we run our lives depend upon a low-power, weak and vulnerable signal beamed from a few tonnes of electronics orbiting above our heads.

This dependence is a new Achilles’ heel for the world’s financial, commercial and military establishments. From North Korea’s concerted disruption of the South’s maritime and airborne fleet, to white van drivers’ evading the boss’s scrutiny over lunch, this signal is easy to jam, with disastrous consequences.

Some people are looking at alternatives. Quentin Cooper meets the scientists and engineers developing alternative, resilient, navigation systems.

Listen online to the BBC show Finding a way: The future of navigation 

Just a few milliwatts from an oscillator in a high location can knock out GPS out over a wide area. Research work is currently underway to develop methods of jamming GPS in such a way that those affected are not aware, e.g, no loss of GPS alarm, and making them believe they are in a completely different location. Some pioneering work in this field is being done by researchers at the University of Texas, see 

GPS Spoofing experiment knocks ship off course

The Galileo GPS system under development may prove slightly harder to jam using simple equipment. It will transmit a wideband signal across bands of frequencies such as 1260-1300 MHz. This may prove to be more robust that the US GPS, however, in an article Peter Blair G3LTF suggests that some amateur radio transmissions in 1260-1300 MHz could affect Galileo GPS receivers several kilometres away. 


More Resources:

Read Peter G3LTF’s article on Galileo


Courtesy: BBC Radio 4



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