Disrupting GPS reception in aircraft or military operations
With car thieves in the United Kingdom using GPS jammers to aid their getaways, experts say it‘s only a matter of time until crooks -- and, ominously, terrorists -- in the United States catch on.
Jammers transmit a low-power signal that creates signal noise and fools a GPS receiver into thinking the satellites are not available. They can be used to confuse the police, avoid charges, and by some pranksters to harass unsuspecting iPhone users.
But the real threat is the unknown. Criminals could use them to hide their whereabouts from law enforcement -- and some experts fear terrorists could use high-powered jammers to disrupt GPS reception on an airplane or in military operations.
These devices pose a serious social risk and their purchase and use in the United States are undoubtedly illegal. The FCC is keen to track down anyone who buys GPS jammers and will prosecute and imprison anyone who uses them. However, they are easy to buy online, and their supporters say they should keep it that way. Fox News Channel can buy GPS jammers from numerous online sources for $50.
“GPS is so embedded in the transportation, manufacturing industries, and economies of our societies that the risk is high,“ said David Last, an Emeritus Professor at Bangor University in the U.K. The authority to use GPS jammers with a famous crime.
It‘s especially so in telecommunications: GPS is the ultimate source of timing for most of our telephone systems, the Internet, and, in the U.Nan, mobile phones.
All these systems are potential prey of jammers, which is the main reason why they are illegal. But supporters of the devices say they can serve a purpose and that people should have the right to buy them. And, for now, they can.
Of course, GPS and cell phone jammers are not the most advanced. These devices that cause signal confusion and interruption are actually similar to illegal cell phone jammers.
The risk is low for airplanes, which use ground-based radars for guidance and have a backup navigation system that does not depend on satellites. Military personnel uses a dedicated GPS network. But GPS interference will still cause confusion in the cockpit because the pilot has to switch to the alternate navigation system. Maritime cargo that relies on GPS coordinates to locate ports can also face problems.
The Office of Engineering and Technology states that GPS jammers are sold, imported, owned or used in the United States. The agency is actively pursuing those using the devices. There may be potential risks if GPS jammers are used carelessly.
It depends on the ability of the jamming device, High-power devices will have greater range and greater jamming potential than low-power devices.