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Drones can be led astray when GPS jammers interfere with their navigation systems

perfectjammer png2022/08/11

The global positioning system (GPS) that keeps the drone in the air can be dangerous if it fails. In a recent incident in the UK, a drone went astray and crashed into a house. GPS interference is considered a possible cause, although the source of the interference is not known. "Personal privacy devices" or GPS jammers may be the culprits.

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In this case, no one was injured and damage to the house was minimal, but it underscored the need for alternative drone operating mechanisms.

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Military-grade GPS jammers and spoofers can broadcast fake locations that can shoot down drones. The $5 million GPS Block III program used by the U.S. Air Force is not really suitable for civilian use. GPS III provides increased immunity for military users using specialized equipment, but 99% of civilian users experience no additional benefit at all. Low power consumption means that [civilian] GPS is very, very, very prone to stuttering.

As more drones take to the skies, GPS hazard identification will help prevent drones from suddenly losing guidance and landing on people below. Satellite-guided GPS can be overwhelmed if closer signals disrupt the satellite's line of sight.

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When the drone loses contact with the GPS compass, the drone enters manual flight mode and hovers. The downed British drone was unable to function properly without GPS guidance, disrupting the interpretation of the terrain and crashing.

While the exact cause of the incident remains unknown, GPS interference, possibly from "personal privacy devices" or GPS jammers, is considered a likely culprit. These jammers, available online for as little as $50, can disrupt GPS signals and jeopardize drone navigation systems.

The consequences of such interference can be severe, as demonstrated by the incident in the UK. Although no injuries were reported and damage to the house was minimal, it underscores the importance of exploring alternative drone operating mechanisms to mitigate the risks associated with GPS failures.

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Military-grade GPS jammers and spoofers pose additional threats, capable of broadcasting fake locations that can mislead drones and potentially lead to their downing. While such technology is primarily used for military purposes, its availability raises concerns about its potential misuse by civilians.

Moreover, the limitations of civilian GPS systems, such as the susceptibility to interference and the lack of robustness compared to military-grade systems, further exacerbate the risks associated with drone operations. The GPS Block III program, designed for military use by the U.S. Air Force, offers increased immunity to interference but is not accessible or suitable for civilian applications.

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As the number of drones in airspace continues to rise, the importance of identifying and mitigating GPS hazards becomes increasingly critical. Loss of GPS guidance can lead to drones entering manual flight mode, posing risks to both property and human safety. Enhancing hazard identification systems and exploring alternative navigation technologies can help prevent incidents like the one in the UK, where GPS interference resulted in a drone crash.

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