Royal Academy of Engineering report on satnav tech

UK ‘dangerously dependent on GPS’

The UK may have become over-reliant on the GPS satellite positioning system according to a report by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Space-based GPS positioning relies on the reception of extremely weak signals from a variety of satellites in order to pin-point an absolute position but the academy has said that too many systems exist which have no back-up measures in case the GPS system goes down.

RAEng group chair Dr Martyn Thomas told BBC News: "There is a growing interdependence between systems that people think are backing each other up."

"And it might well be that if a number these systems fail simultaneously, it will cause commercial damage or just conceivably loss of life. This is wholly avoidable."

The report made a number of recommendations including raising awareness of the need for backup system and advocating research into better antenna and receiver technologies to improve reliability.

The report also suggested that GPS jamming equipment be made illegal. At present it’s particularly easy to jam GPS given the extremely weak signals involved. Criminals have been known to use jamming equipment to foil tracking devices in stolen vehicles.

While the report said that the UK was "dangerously dependent" on GPS technology, Dr Thomas also pointed out that the Academy was not warning of "calamity around the corner."

The Global Navigation Space Systems: reliance and vulnerabilities report can be downloaded from here (pdf).

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