GPS Jamming and its impact on maritime safety



Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Paul Williams & Dr. Sally Basker, The General Lighthouse Authorities of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Harwich, UK


The number of people using satellite navigation has grown dramatically over the past decade through the use of the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and will continue to grow with the repopulation of the Russian GLONASS system and the development of Galileo and COMPASS, the new European and Chinese systems. Growth in the use of these Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) has unfortunately increased the reliance on them too.

The General Lighthouse Authorities of the United Kingdom and Ireland (GLAs) provide marine aids-to-navigation (AtoNs) for the benefit and safety of all mariners using their waters. As such, the GLAs are keen to understand the effect of GNSS service denial and jamming on the safety of maritime navigation and have conducted two trials to date.

This article reports on the effect of GNSS jamming, its implications, and what mitigating actions should be considered to ensure the continued safe navigation of the mariner.

GPS jamming trials conducted by the GLA
The GLAs have conducted two GPS jamming trials: the first in 2008, off the coast of Flamborough Head; and the second, a series of demonstrations, held off the coast of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne last year. These trials have enabled the GLAs to gather important results as to what happens to their AtoNs and navigation equipment, communication systems and situational awareness, both on and off the ship.

The trials provided interesting results that the GLAs were able to publish openly for the first time. Knowing that GPS is being jammed and how to recognise the symptoms on AtoNs, vessel navigation equipment, or shore-based infrastructure is critical for the safety of the mariner.

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