The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected Rockwell Collins to develop architectures and techniques that reduce war fighter dependence on GPS.As part of DARPA’s Spatial, Temporal and Orientation Information in Contested Environments (STOIC) program, Rockwell Collins will research relative positioning accuracy, navigation and picosecond-accurate timing technology to augment or substitute for GPS in multifunctional communication system solutions.
GPS has become ubiquitous in our lives in just a short time. In Desert Storm, GPS was in its infancy. Indeed, many units, mine included, were not equipped with even the first generation GPS receivers, instead relying on commercial LORAN radio navigation systems, and only one per company at that! Today, there are few of us that don’t walk around without a phone that (kinda emulates) GPS level accuracy for navigating the roads.
The military is even more dependent on GPS than you are. Everything from aerial navigation, to weapons guidance to encrypted datalinks rely on the Position, Navigation and Timing afforded by GPS.
That is rapidly becoming a real problem, as GPS can, in fact, be jammed. It is, after all, just really faint radio signals broadcast from a constellation of satellites.
DARPA, and the rest of the DoD, have recognized this, and have a slew of programs looking to provide a fully self contained PNT system that doesn’t rely on outside input to provide GPS levels of accuracy. One suspects some of these technologies will prove to be dead ends, and others less than wholly successful. But one also suspects that sooner or later, a reasonably affordable system will be available, and its uses will also prove to be virtually unlimited.