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How Does GPS Jamming Affect Drones and Spacecraft?

Flying drone with camera

Flying drone with cameraA controlled radiated pattern antenna (CRPA) simulator and other anti-jamming resources would be more necessary for drones and spacecraft, as incidents of GPS jamming are expected to increase further in the next decade.

Some experts suggested that drone manufacturers work out a plan for improving their aircraft fleet’s resistance against interference. The same applies for GPS satellites used for emergency response and aviation purposes.

GPS Jamming

More than 150,000 cases of jamming and spoofing have taken place in recent years. Drones would likely be part of the statistic soon, so it’s better for manufacturers to reconsider their strategy despite the higher costs. Sensor fusion is one way to prevent spoofing, although it would be an added expense or weight.

However, the additional cost would likely pale in comparison to the significant impact of GPS jamming and spoofing. In some cases, human lives and safety would be at risk. This is particularly true for emergency responders and pilots.

Negative Impact

Emergency responders greatly rely on GPS to perform their work such as reaching their destination. If GPS signals are jammed, it would be hard to pinpoint the nearest unit that can respond to distress calls. The University of Texas at Austin Associate Professor Todd Humphreys said that some jammers can even disrupt signals within a distance of 100 feet.

In aviation, Humphreys cited an incident in a French airport that unintentionally canceled flights due to signal interference for several hours. While it seemed that nobody was hurt, the situation caused millions in losses aside from the headache and stress among passengers.

Spacecraft developers and drone manufacturers should carefully consider the risks of not investing enough in anti-jamming resources, as the consequences weigh beyond financial and property losses. While the vulnerability of GPS systems would always be there, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your spacecraft should be prone to threats as well.

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