News Item

Institute features in The Times

Under the heading 'We’d be lost without GPS, says head of Royal Institute of Navigation', next week's INC is highlighted.

The article, by Science Editor Tom Whipple, explains that Brighton will host the Royal Institute of Navigation’s annual International Navigation Conference (INC 2017). It does so at a time when the ubiquity of GPS means that many of us have never needed so much as a road atlas, let alone a compass, and might even be tempted to ask what, exactly, is the purpose of an institute of navigation?

However, after a government report estimated that disruption to GPS signals could cost the British economy £1 billion a day, speakers will warn that we are dangerously exposed to the consequences of losing a surprisingly fragile system.

The article continues: 'GPS has become an invisible utility. It’s everywhere,' John Pottle, Director of the Institute, said. 'It is used not only by car satnavs and emergency services; the constellation of European, US and Russian satellites above our heads is also crucial in providing a time signal to the financial services sector.'

Our Director continues by mentioning that entire areas of Moscow and Saint Petersburg have been 'moved' by GPS and ships in the Black Sea have been confused by intentional GPS spoofing.

Such is the weakness of the GPS signal, however, that it doesn’t take state-orchestrated plots to disrupt it - sometimes all it takes is a plumber trying to hide from his boss. Increasingly, companies use trackers to keep tabs on their employees; employees, in their turn, look for ways to stay out of sight. John Pottle adds 'Maybe you want a break. Maybe you want to go and see someone you have a relationship with. So you get a small jammer.'

It is legal to buy GPS jammers in the UK, but not to use them. Detectors at ports and on motorways record tens to hundreds of them passing each day - the problem is that they don’t knock out only the van’s GPS; they also jam signals in a surrounding area.

It is for these reasons that the conference will urge that more effort be put into systems that can augment GPS. Many driverless car plans now involve visual navigation, identifying landmarks with lasers or cameras, as well as inertial systems that can measure acceleration, deceleration and turning to estimate position. None will rely solely on GPS.

Our Director concludes that this means that at the very least there is still a point to an Institute of Navigation.

The full article and details of the conference can be found at the links below . .

  • 25 November 2017
  • RIN

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