GPS Backup Analysis Stays on Track - Inside GNSS - Global Navigation Satellite Systems Engineering, Policy, and Design

GPS Backup Analysis Stays on Track

Though the pandemic impacts federal workers and contractors across the country, the early-March testing of GPS backup technologies finished on time and the analysis is expected to be completed on schedule.

“Analysis of the data has begun,” the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a statement sent to Inside GNSS, “and USDOT expects the analysis phase to remain on schedule for completion in May.”

A recommendation on what the backup system will look like is supposed to be submitted in a report to Congress. That recommendation is expected to comprise several systems including some that can send signals inside buildings.

“Knowing the diverse nature of the critical infrastructure sectors that rely on positioning, navigation and/or timing, it’s unlikely there is one solution that can meet everyone’s needs,” Karen Van Dyke, director of DOT’s office of positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) and spectrum told Inside GNSS earlier this year. “Even GPS itself can’t meet all of the needs, particularly indoors and underground—some of the more impeded environments.”

“The results from the demonstration are planned to be briefed to the National Space-Based PNT Executive Committee (EXCOM), co-chaired by the deputy secretaries of Transportation and Defense, in August 2020 for a decision on the way forward,” DOT said.

The new system is supposed to be terrestrial, wireless, have wide area coverage, be difficult to disrupt and capable of expansion to provide positioning and navigation services.

[Inside GNSS has published three online stories detailing technology from some of the 11 firms selected by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in August 2019 to demonstrate GPS backup technologies that could be used to back up services provided by GPS should GPS signals be jammed, spoofed or unavailable.  See NEON, Echo Ridge and Seven Solutions.]

“We might not be able to do all those things,” DOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Diana Furchtgott-Roth told attendees at the Institute of Navigation’s ION GNSS+ meeting in September, “but we are very much going to try our best possible.”

The testing is part of a congressionally mandated and funded effort to come up with a back up for the GPS system. Because GPS signals have become integrated into so many aspects of modern life—including the computer systems and networks that keep communication and financial networks running smoothly—DOT chose a variety of technologies from 11 different firms to weave into a cohesive web of positioning, timing and navigation information.

CAPE COD, MA, UNITED STATES 07.13.2018 Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Swanson 102nd Intelligence Wing
Joint Base Cape Cod,
Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Swanson,
102nd Intelligence Wing

The testing began the week of March 9 at NASA’s Langley Research Center and continued the following week at Joint Base Cape Cod in at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

Though the U.S. started feeling the impact of the coronavirus well before that, DOT was able to finish the tests as anticipated.

“Data collection was completed on time, thanks to the collaborative work of the USDOT/Volpe Center, NASA/Langley, Joint Base Cape Cod, U.S. Coast Guard and the technology vendor teams,” DOT said.

Top photo of NASA’s Langley Research Center courtesy of NASA.