Avionics News August 2019 - 24

A GPS-DEPENDENT SOCIETY
Continued from page 23

line of products, whether aviation navigators, digital
wristwatches, fishing electronics or the rest. But even
if use of GPS today remained limited to military
navigation, one aspect of it would remain a significant
unresolved concern: The integrity of the GPS signal and
the impact of that integrity on its use.
Of the many areas of modern life touched by GPS,
few could be seen as more profoundly influential than
the impact of GPS on global aviation - commercial,
general and military, alike.
Today's system, enhanced by the wide area
augmentation system, or WAAS, delivers accuracy
exceeding the best of our ground-based navigation
equipment, the longtime gold standard instrument
landing system, or ILS.
Today's WAAS-enhanced GPS boasts accuracy levels
within a couple of meters, precise enough to support
approach minima lower than ILS levels. But it's taken
decades of progress to reach this level.
The issue of GPS vulnerabilities and potential for
jamming or spoofing the signal already had scientists
and military staff concerned even before the network
achieved full operational status back in 1993. Back
in those days, the measured accuracy of GPS was in
multiple meters.
Achieving accuracy enough to support non-precision
instrument approaches signaled the move to evermore critical use of GPS. And now with WAAS GPS
informing most ADS-B Out systems, a new degree of
need has been placed on the electronic shoulders of
precision GPS: air-traffic surveillance.
Thankfully, between private industry innovation
and government diligence, the threats from spoofing
and jamming are, while still present, challenges with
countermeasures at the ready.
Some of those safeguards are integral to the hardware
and software that runs the GPS network and translates
into precise position data from the signals broadcast
from multiple satellites orbiting 22,000 miles out in
space.
At the same time, the WAAS network of ground
stations and geostationary satellites detects position
errors caused by atmospheric conditions and timing
errors and broadcasts a correcting signal from dedicated
satellites.
Still, concern about bad actors and malicious forces
keeps up the pressure to protect the GPS system.
24

avionics news

*

august

2019

The stakes:
Only everything in our economy
Concern over the integrity of GPS signals dates back
decades, almost to the beginning of the system's existence.
Those concerns formed the focus of an examination and
report published in 2001 as the "Vulnerability Assessment
of the Transportation Infrastructure Relying on the
Global Positioning System." The John A. Volpe National
Transportation Systems Center published its final report
Aug. 29, 2001, and it's available online at https://rntfnd.org/
wp-content/uploads/Vople_vulnerability_assess_2001.pdf.
The report noted the potential sources of unintentional
and intentional problems. Circumstances include
ionospheric interference, unintentional radio frequency
interference, and various forms of interference caused
by personal electronic devices, mobile satellite-service
systems, and ultrawide-band radar and communications.
Human misunderstanding of the limitations and
peculiarities of GPS is another source of problems. Ditto
for spoofing, jamming and "meaconing" - defined as the
interception and rebroadcast of navigation signals, usually
at a higher power than the original signal. Its purpose: to
confuse enemy navigation.
The result of meaconing is aircraft or ground stations
getting inaccurate bearings.
Its conclusions are more than hinted at in the conclusion
of a newer report, published last year.
Last September, the Spaceā€Based Positioning,
Navigation and Timing National Advisory Board
published a report on GPS threats titled "Protect, Toughen,
and Augment GPS for Users." It, too, is available
online at https://www.gps.gov/governance/advisory/
recommendations/2018-09-topic-papers.pdf.
The report reflected the insights of the advisory board
gleaned from topic papers examining PNT applications
and uses in several critical areas, along with included
recommendations for further engagement by PNT EXCOM
member agencies, departments, and stakeholders.
The goal of this effort: to protect and enhance the
worldwide utility and reach of GPS even as new GNSS
constellations are being deployed by other nations.
The report said, "The reasons for this are simple, yet
authoritative. GPS services, such as precision timing,
have become thoroughly integrated into every facet of
the U.S. economy. Estimates of the economic value of
GPS to the U.S. are as high as $2.9 trillion per year,
but because of the ubiquity and impact of GPS on the
economy and national security the true value is beyond
calculation. The board's recommendations are intended to
help preserve such critical national capabilities."


https://www.rntfnd.org/wp-content/uploads/Vople_vulnerability_assess_2001.pdf https://www.rntfnd.org/wp-content/uploads/Vople_vulnerability_assess_2001.pdf https://www.gps.gov/governance/advisory/recommendations/2018-09-topic-papers.pdf https://www.gps.gov/governance/advisory/recommendations/2018-09-topic-papers.pdf

Avionics News August 2019

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