As the final BeiDou satellite reaches geostationary orbit, experts in the satnav community worry about security implications of the now officially operational Chinese system. As a two-way rather than a one-way communication system, BeiDou differs in two key aspects from other GNSS:
In a feelgood two-and-a-half minute video cartoon aimed well below its audience’s head, the XinhuaNet.com news service explains BeiDou advantages over GPS and other GNSS. Principally, the script stresses the satnav system’s two-way short message service (SMS) texting capability that can stand in for cellular communications in remote areas and in case of natural disasters that may disable cellular base stations.
Set to a loping synthesized country rock soundtrack, the entertainment-with-a-message follows a passenger bus through a remote desert. When Buzz the Driver, spooked by a snake, deviates from his planned course, a BeiDou monitoring station quickly detects the error, generates an alarm and sends a message: “Hey, keep yourself focused!”
The animation gives a nod to other GNSS by stating that “Me and other family members are compatible and interoperable at the user level, which allows us to work together.”
The China Satellite Navigation Office (CSNO) announced completion of two years of testing of BeiDou inter-satellite links, an innovative feature of the GNSS that will reportedly produce greater accuracy for users on Earth. The test campaign encompassed 29 satellites of the third generation (BDS-3) of the now global system.
A new marine-certified quad-band GNSS receiver, the LD900 from VERIPOS, delivers accurate and reliable positioning in demanding offshore environments. The LD900 can track four GNSS frequencies simultaneously to ensure a precise position is always available at sea.
Beijing’s municipal government released a three-year plan to promote the innovation and development of industries related to the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System. The total output of BeiDou navigation and location service industry in the Beijing region will exceed 100 billion yuan ($14.4 billion U.S. dollars) by 2022, according to the plan document.
According to a statement by the head of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, pilots of the elite U-2 spy plane wear watches that receive foreign GNSS signals and provide backup navigation when GPS is jammed.
“My U-2 guys fly with a watch now that ties into GPS, but also BeiDou and the Russian [GLONASS] system and the European [Galileo] system so that if somebody jams GPS, they still get the others,” said Gen. James “Mike” Holmes on March 4 at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference in Washington.
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed “Dragon Lady,” is a single-jet engine, ultra-high altitude (70,000 feet, 21,300 meters) reconnaissance aircraft. It gathers intelligence with a variety of sensors. The U-2 is one of very few aircraft that have served the Air Force for more than 50 years, a select group that also includes the B-52 long-range bomber. The latest model, the U-2S, had a technical upgrade in 2012. [Dragon Lady photo above, courtesy Lockheed.]
Gen. Holmes did not name the watch manufacturer.
In February 2018, Garmin announced that its D2 Charlie aviator watch had been selected by the Air Force for use by the pilots of the Lockheed U-2 aircraft. “The high-sensitivity WAAS GPS-enabled D2 Charlie aviator watch incorporates global navigation capability, rich and colorful moving maps and more, providing pilots in the USAF with an exclusive, back-up navigation timepiece in the cockpit. . . . The D2 Charlie aviator watch will be an integral and functional part of the U-2 pilot’s toolkit.”
According to the press release, Garmin expected the United States Air Force to take delivery of more than 100 D2 Charlies.
Among the sensors mentioned on Garmin’s spec sheet for the watch are GPS, GLONASS, a heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer and thermometer. BeiDou is not listed.
However, in an annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated: “Garmin utilizes a variety of other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) including, but not limited to . . . .The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), a Chinese satellite navigation system that is expected to have 35 operating satellites in orbit by 2020 and will provide global coverage.”
D2 Charlie has a sapphire scratch-resistant crystal lens and a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coated titanium bezel. A sunlight-readable, high-resolution color display with LED backlight on the watch face allows pilots to view data in most lighting conditions in the cockpit. It offers up to 20 hours of battery life in GPS mode and up to 12 days in smartwatch mode. It comes with a leather wristband and a sporty silicone band.
In early December, Qualcomm made its annual announcement of a new chip for phones and wearables in the coming year. Qualcomm’s flagship system-on-chip will power a range of devices launching in 2020, with lots of new and exciting (to smartphone addicts) capabilities; just not much—make that nothing—new in satellite-based navigation derivatives. The company’s Snapdragon 865, succeeding the 855 which reigned during 2019, brings support for 5G, 200MP cameras, and 144Hz displays.
In early December, Qualcomm made its annual announcement of a new chip for phones and wearables in the coming year. Qualcomm’s flagship system-on-chip will power a range of devices launching in 2020, with lots of new and exciting (to smartphone addicts) capabilities; just not much — make that nothing — new in satellite-based navigation derivatives.
In lead position on a sleigh rising from the North Pole to a height of 200 meters — standard cruising altitude for global package delivery — at 2100 hours UTC on December 24 — the youngest will hopefully be asleep by then and there’s plenty of territory to cover before dawn breaks, time’s a-wasting — navigator Rudolph will see between 40 and 45 GNSS satellites glistening in the night sky.
Key officials from the BeiDou and GLONASS programs, affiliated organizations and members of the satellite navigation industry met at the end of August to fine-tune a cooperation deal between the two systems.
The Chinese are closing in on the completion of the BeiDou constellation with 39 satellites now on-orbit and more launches planned, an official told a conference on aerospace technology innovation.
Yang Jun, deputy director of China’s Satellite Navigation System Management Office, told attendees at the Shanghai event that the plan is to loft five to seven more satellites into place this year and another two to four in 2020, according to the Xinhua news agency.