A resilient NTP is essential, say industry experts


As the TNP becomes essential for more economic activities, any disruption in availability, reliability, resiliency, and integrity would weaken critical infrastructure that supports national security, business operations, and public safety, according to experts speaking at the World Geospatial Forum.

This growing reliance on PNT services – and the potentially high economic cost of vulnerabilities – underscores how vital GPS and GNSS systems are to the global economy and the national security of countries around the world, experts said. Resilient PNT systems are needed to combat GPS/GNSS outages.

Robert Cardillo

Building the resilience of these systems will require multiple technologies ranging from network time transfer services to wireless terrestrial infrastructure and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.

The World Geospatial Forum opened in Amsterdam on May 10. The second plenary session of the day focused on the value of NWPs in the global economy. Geospatial World is a global think tank that works to educate governments and policy makers, businesses and the general public about the use of geospatial data and technologies.

Robert Cardillochairman of The Cardillo Group and former director of the US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), led the panel.

“Our existence on this planet has been shaped by our individual and collective awareness of place and our confidence to be able to move safely and efficiently from place to place, all within this common framework of position, navigation and synchronization, or PNT,” he said.

“The smartphone is a wonderful example of the extent to which PNT has been integrated into our lives,” said Trimble’s founder. Charlie Trimble. He defined three basic phases involved in driving the NTP to its place in the global economy.

“The path from the dawn of the space age to the smartphone was anything but obvious or straightforward,” Trimble said. “First of all, Sputnik led to global navigation systems. Second, the shuttle disaster made us realize that the satellite system was an information utility. And now the integration of PNT into the mobile and immobile internet is changing our world.

“Our first contract was with the ESA (European Space Agency) to study the feasibility of using a navigation and timing satellite using small satellite techniques, which in 1985 was considered a far-fetched idea”, recounted Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. ; we look at the lunar economy. PNT indeed has a very promising future, not only on Earth, but also looking over this decade at the use of PNT on the lunar surface.

Rodrigo da Costa, Executive Director of the European GNSS Agency.  (Photo: GSA)

Rodrigo da Costa

“New things are happening, especially in government satellite communications, space situational awareness and the like, which benefit citizens every day,” said Rodrigo da Costa, Executive Director, European Space Program Agency (EUSPA). “The Galileo, EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service), Copernicus and GOVSATCOM programs are key areas of EU space activities. All these programs are massive investments and in the end, the result comes from their use in the different areas of our economy and our daily life.

“In the US alone, GPS is approaching $1 trillion in economic impact and doubling every 2-3 years. But it’s a single point of failure. This highlights the need for a resilient NTP,” said Gillian Smith, Vice President of Marketing, NextNav. “We believe our needs have evolved beyond the technology actually created in the 1960s. We need increased accuracy and availability in urban environments in particular.

“I think a lot of you have experienced it if you’ve tried using it in a big city,” Smith said. “This blue dot will bounce off buildings and not be very accurate. We need indoor tracking and mapping. We need elevation data so you know what floor you are on. find when you think about precise location. We also need to increase resiliency and redundancy. This is also going to give us all increased security.

The value of GPS

According to Geospatial World, GPS jamming and interference is a serious issue that has come under the spotlight, especially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In 2019, a Washington, DC think tank documented more than 10,000 cases of GPS interference (jamming and spoofing) over the previous five years from Russia. By 2021, these had become increasingly sophisticated. In one particular case, the crew aboard NATO ships in Odessa had their location given as Crimea.

In the last six months, even before the start of the war against Ukraine, GPS jamming has been reported in and around this region. In March, the European Aviation Safety Agency issued GNSS spoofing and jamming warnings for flights over Europe, particularly around countries neighboring Ukraine and Russia.

On a global scale, the economic impact of GPS/GNSS disruption is difficult to assess. The potential economic consequences of insufficient protection of NWP sources are enormous, with estimates ranging from millions to billions of dollars depending on the type, duration, severity and geographic extent of the disturbance.

Additionally, the impact of a GPS/GNSS failure goes beyond basic economics and could pose a risk to life. Emergency services, beacons and telecommunications networks all depend on PNT services — any disruption could have serious consequences.

A 2019 report sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology estimated that the loss of GPS would cost the US economy $1 billion a day.

A 2017 study in the UK estimated that a five-day GNSS disruption would result in an economic impact of £5.2 billion ($7.2 billion), impacts to roads, shipping and emergency services representing 88% of the cost.


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