On January 14, the US Department of Transportation published a report stress-testing 11 PNT technology solutions as a potential GPS backup. In all 11 categories tested, Sunnyvale, California-headquartered NextNav has emerged as the leader.
“All TRL-qualified vendors demonstrated some PNT performance of value, but only one vendor, NextNav, demonstrated in all applicable use case scenarios,” the 457-page report said, as part of its four key findings from technology demonstration. The other three findings were:
- Neither eLORAN technology succeeded in the Static Basement Timing scenario.
- Deployment effort and coverage (infrastructure per unit area) are both significant cost factors.
- One technology, R-Mode ranging in the MF band, did not meet the minimum Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 6.
The findings of the report, Complementary PNT and GPS Backup Technologies Demonstration Report, asserts that resilient PNT is needed to protect critical infrastructure in the public sector, such as telecommunications, transportation, electric grid, financial sectors. It indicates that the best strategy for achieving resilient PNT service is to pursue multiple technologies to promote diversity in the PNT functions that support transportation and other critical infrastructure sectors.
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The DoT is also calling for increased investment from the government in complementary PNT solutions to address the vulnerabilities of GPS.
The report makes two recommendations, as communicated during the August 21, 2020 briefing to the EXCOM,
- DoT should develop system requirements for PNT functions that support safety-critical services.
- DoT should develop standards, test procedures, and monitoring capabilities to ensure that PNT services, and the equipage that utilizes them, meet the necessary levels of safety and resilience identified in Recommendation 1.
It adds that recognizing that the transportation sector has some of the most stringent performance requirements in terms of accuracy, integrity, availability, and reliability, developing system requirements that focus on safety and resilience will allow determination of which requirements are currently met, and which requirements may require further commercial innovation. The department says it supports open safety standards to promote private-sector innovation and commercial product development.
Why complementary PNT?
The economic benefits of GNSS are staggering. According to a recent NIST/RTI study, the estimated value of GPS-enabled technologies across the entire US economy at $218 billion in private and public benefits between 2007 and 2017. The overall estimated economic impact of GPS on nine critical US industries was $1.4 trillion.
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In this background, the Executive Order on “Strengthening National Resilience Through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services” issued in February 2020 began the process for a national alternative PNT policy. Shortly afterwards in April, the Department of Homeland Security’s Report on Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Backup and Complementary Capabilities to the Global Positioning System (GPS) to Congress laid out potential roles for the Federal government and commercial industry in creating and operating contingency layers for PNT. It observed that the position and navigation functions in critical infrastructure are so diverse that no single PNT system, including GPS, can fulfill all user requirements and applications. The report recommended a series of application-specific PNT systems, rather than a single alternative, and that this be developed in coordination with industry owners and operators, with regulatory and financial incentives to encourage adoption.
Included in the January 14 report are the results from a number of timing and positioning scenarios, which were conducted among the 11 candidate technologies. Nine different types of tests were done in a GPS free environment covering positioning, navigation and timing scenarios, including indoor, outdoor, basement conditions for timing, static and dynamic environments for 2D and 3D positioning and navigation. In each attribute, TerraPoiNT, the NextNav terrestrial PNT solution, led the pack.
TerraPoiNT, NextNav’s 3GPP compliant terrestrial PNT solution, provides a complete 3D solution for position, navigation, and timing in outdoor, urban, and indoor environments. TerraPoint’s signal which is over 100,000 times stronger than GPS, combined with its ability to operate independent of GPS and its cybersecurity protections overcomes the limitations of GPS. Made possible by a terrestrial network of transmitters and altitude stations deployed on licensed nationwide spectrum across the country, the NextNav solution is more accurate, resilient and secure than satellite-based GPS technology.
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“The DoT report highlights the fact that viable, market-ready PNT solutions can increase the resilience and security of location and timing services. These solutions will play a vital role in addressing both the immediate need to secure our critical infrastructure, but will also enable modern applications such as autonomous vehicles and 5G telecommunication systems,” said NextNav CEO Ganesh Pattabiraman. “We are thrilled that the DOT report both validates the TerraPoiNT technology and recognizes NextNav’s vision for the future of PNT.”
NextNav was one of prominent PNT companies who came together in December last year to form a new coalition to give voice to the demand for open-market approach to backing up GPS/GNSS for critical infrastructure. The Open PNT Industry Alliance will fortify economic and national security by supporting government efforts to accelerate the implementation of backup positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) capabilities for critical infrastructure.