Representatives from a wide variety of industries, companies and associations, including AOPA and GAMA, have joined together to form the Coalition To Save Our GPS to resolve a “serious threat” to GPS.
Satellite navigation systems
At press time, the first of three monthly reports of the technical arguments between experts from LightSquared and the GPS community over GPS jamming was about to be issued.
A panel of experts, selected jointly by the GPS Industry Council and LightSquared Corp., is currently determining whether LightSquared’s proposed NAS-wide network of 40,000 powerful ground stations transmitting voice and Internet traffic could interfere with and potentially jam GPS receivers operating within their own FCC-protected frequency band.
Following a certification and verification process, the European Commission approved the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (Egnos) “safety-of-life” service for aviation last Wednesday. Egnos is closely similar to, and compatible with, the U.S. Waas satellite-based augmentation system that corrects timing errors in GPS signals, making it more accurate.
Over the next three months, a panel of 14 experts will test and analyze whether LightSquared's proposal to transmit Internet data from a nationwide network of 40,000 high-powered ground stations will jam very low powered GPS signals operating in the immediately adjacent GPS frequency band.
Small, inexpensive GPS jammers carried by truckers have caused the occasional shutdown of the Laas test installation at Newark Airport. The devices, powered by simply plugging into the cigarette lighter, are intended to foil interrogations of the truck's remotely installed GPS and its coupled cellphone by the trucking company's dispatcher to check on the vehicleπs location and progress.
Garmin reports that LightSquared’s proposed nationwide broadband Internet service could seriously interfere with GPS signals. As a result of this and other filed objections, the FCC is withholding LightSquared’s operational approval until a three-month independent expert analysis agrees that this will not occur.
The U.S. Departments of Defense, Transportation, Commerce and Homeland Security, as well as the civil GPS Industry Council–of which NBAA is a member–have filed objections with the FCC over a new satellite-enabled cellular broadband service from LightSquared.
Several years ago, when satellites were being touted as aviation’s sole means of navigation from takeoff to touchdown, former FAA Administrator Langhorne Bond painted a picture of a dark winter’s night with below-limits weather up and down the east coast. In that scenario, he stated, terrorist GPS jammers could become “weapons of mass destruction.” The FAA shrugged it off as unfounded speculation.
GPS designers understood from the beginning that the system’s weak signals would be vulnerable to inadvertent or deliberate interference, with the threat formally recognized by the DOT’s Volpe Center in Cambridge, Mass., on Sept. 10, 2001�one day before 9/11. Since that time, the Department of Defense has run annual all-altitude tests�over the Western U.S.