The Global Positioning System, or GPS, is a vital service embedded deep into the lives of modern civilization. No one could have known how imperative this design would be across all areas of life. We have everything from self-driving cars to geofencing to finding a safe route home. The problem with GPS however, is it can be jammed by ill seekers. GPS relies on weak signals from about 12,600 miles above our Earth. GPS service is easily interrupted by underground tunnels, mountain ranges, and high rise cities. So how reliable is GPS? Well, there are pocket-sized GPS jammers available to buy online for cheap. The range is small and only shoots a radius of a few meters, yet someone with a little know-how could actually build a device to encompass large areas.
The consequences of not having it together with GPS technology are more difficult than simply not being able to find a nearby Starbucks. Failure of GPS can mean complete loss of control, especially for a force such as an airplane or sea vessel. Do we have a GPS backup? So far, our GPS system consists of global coverage of just 32 orbiting satellites. You can see nine satellites at any given time. The distance between the satellites and us means the signals are very easy to jam. The solution to a potential threat with GPS would be to consider other alternatives to GPS, or even building ground-based alternatives in lieu of worst-case scenario would occur.
Unintentional interference has already occurred without most even noticing it. You can be in your car driving and the navigation system drops out for maybe 30 seconds or less. Reports have that this has already happened with huger risks such as jets barreling through the sky.
It is explained that since GPS has been around for awhile, and seemed dependable, many other navigation systems (some used as a backup) have been removed now, making us solely dependent on GPS navigation system. They were considered expensive to maintain and only covered local areas. Yet, perhaps this is the exact reason we need to keep those other navigation systems in place. Researchers say critical infrastructure can be impacted by GPS failure to the extent of ‘loss of life’. Interference can include plane and airport navigation systems, ships and security vans, and emergency service vehicles.
For now, no one seems to want to discuss this as a problem. One researcher even said it is a touchy subject everyone is afraid to talk about. This in and of itself, is a huge problem. We are basically setting ourselves up for a target. Never mind the electrical grid, worry about devastation from a cheap jamming into our GPS system. Next time, when you are deep in your GPS routing a cycle path home and your GPS blanks out for a minute, consider the consequences of this on a large scale. Maybe people should talk about it.