The true value of GPS jammers
GPS signal jammer were initially developed by the military to misguide the enemy about geographic locations and targets. The devices were then adapted for consumers that wanted to ensure their privacy or prevent tracking. However, without proper technical knowledge or when placed into the wrong hands, GPS jammers can cause potentially damaging disruptions in communications.
Which means that while LMADIS apparently fried the circuits of the Iranian drone last week—the first-ever “kill” by a US directed-energy weapon—that’s not always the expected result. “The UAV will typically go into some kind of default pattern, to return to base or to go land somewhere,” says Clarke. “The system is powerful enough that for a smaller UAV, if it gets close enough, the energy from the jammer will disrupt the electronics on the drone, and cause it to just fail. But normally the jammer would be used just to jam the communications.”
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
For all its advantages, the LMADIS does have some blind spots. It’s relatively ineffective against a fully autonomous drone, for instance; jamming’s not very useful if there’s no communication in the first place. It inconveniences bigger UAVs rather than destroying them. And there’s the potential for friendly fire; a nearby US helicopter could see its own communications disrupted, for instance, if it gets winged by an RF blast. Which is why the LMADIS system, despite its recent success, should be seen as the first phase of a much more ambitious project.
The GPS jammer itself is typically a small, self-contained frequency transmitter that can send an interference signal within a five to ten meter range. The devices typically plug into a cigarette lighter or USB/charging port and require a low amount of power. Although illegal in most places, GPS jammers can be purchased online and come in various types, such as Wi-Fi jammers, Bluetooth jammers, remote control jammers or drone jammers.
While GPS jammers can cause minor disturbances, such as signal loss, they can also pose a large risk to public safety. For instance, GPS jammers cannot distinguish between types of communications and may block ingoing or outgoing calls from emergency responders. Additionally, the devices could block more than calls and disrupt all communications within a broad frequency range.