GPS & Alternative PNT

The World Relies on the Global Positioning System (GPS)

For the last three decades, GPS has become integral to the operations of almost every commercial sector. In fact, GPS is essentially a global utility, one that provides precise positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) information anywhere in the world.

This is all made possible by innovative electronics with a low cost due to their small size and low power requirements. The widespread use of GPS in these devices has changed our world by enabling a range of applications that deliver safety, security, and convenience.

As the original and still preeminent Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), GPS offers very precise timing. As an established source of PNT information, data from the GPS signal is extremely accurate — and global coverage means that GPS is available without geographic limitation.

There are Threats to GPS

Despite its worldwide usage, GPS has some inherent vulnerabilities and is subject to serious threats. For example, the GPS signal isn’t that strong — it’s essentially a whisper from satellites orbiting at an altitude of 12,500 miles — so it is susceptible to signal degradation by buildings, tunnels, tree canopies, and other obstructions.

Unintentional events such as a system outage are rare but can have a profound impact on GPS availability or accuracy. However, the biggest threat are those bad actors who deliberately attack GPS to disrupt or manipulate the signal.

It’s mainly by looking at life without GPS that we understand its true value. For instance, a June 2019 report sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology put it in perspective. The report estimated an economic loss of $1 billion per day if GPS were lost. If a GPS outage extended to 30 days, the loss is estimated to exceed $45 billion.

The Importance of Alternative PNT

This all points out just how important GPS is to our economy and national security and why there needs to be a contingency capability to back it up. Companies like Satelles offer alternative forms of PNT that provide the backup to ensure the survivability and resilience of critical infrastructure. Satellite Time and Location (STL) in particular offers features and levels of technical performance that make it ideal for many alternative PNT applications.

Check out the overview of STL