Sunday, March 18, 2012

US Government To Test eLoran as Backup


GPS jamming threats have increased in recent years, so much so that the United States Government has been looking into alternative methods of ensuring that navigational technology can’t be competely disrupted. The most common solution to the GPS jamming threat has been to simply develop a backup system. And that backup system would be eLoran.

We’ve talked about eLoran a few times before, and the United States Department of Transportation recently put out a call for citizens to comment on the possible use of it as a backup system (or to offer suggestions for other backups). The commenting period has concluded and it seems that there must have been some pretty positive responses because the United States Deapartment of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard recently entered into a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with Exelis and UrsaNav to test out the viability of eLoran as a backup.

From what I can gather, the tests will be conducted at Wildwood, NJ, a site where testing has been completed in the past. The test is designed to demonstrate strengths, capacities, potential vulnerabilities and methods for use of the upgraded eLoran system. It will also test out the ability of the eLoran system to work in place of GPS with appropriate accuracies in regards to position, navigation and timing (PNT) requirements.

Now, despite what it might seem like with all of the recent reports, eLoran has actually been around for several years and the United States first decided to construct eLoran as a backup to GPS in around 2008. Of course, once it was built, it was tested and then promptly forgotten.

With the resurgence of threats of GPS jamming by criminals and even other countries like North Korea, the idea of having a second signal to use as navigational purposes has become quite appealing.

Unlike GPS signals, eLoran uses stronger, lower-frequency signals which are harder to jam. The idea is that the likelihood of both signals being blocked is much lower than only having one technology to rely on. Although, personally, I can’t help but think that more traditional non-technology-based navigation is probably something that we ought to be encouraging in the military and civilian sectors as well.

I don’t actually know all that much about eLoran, but I can firmly get behind the idea of having a backup for such a critical system. If you’re wanting more information, then I might suggest checking out Inside GNSS’s article for more details.

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