Aviation has much to offer yacht navigation systems


Modern marine navigation systems are ‘primitive’ compared with those used on aircraft an electronic engineer has said.

Martin Bransby, research & radionavigation manager at the General Lighthouse Authorities, made the claim following a successful trial by Trinity House to combat rogue GPS jammers in the North Sea.

Mr Bransby said: ‘Electronic yacht navigation systems must become more resilient – otherwise, we face a scenario where technology is actually reducing safety rather than enhancing it. Demands on marine navigation systems are only getting tighter, yet electronic systems at sea are primitive compared to those used in air travel. This needs to change.’

On several excursions aboard the THV Galatea out of Harwich, UK, ACCSEAS (Accessibility for Shipping, Efficiency Advantages and Sustainability) has successfully demonstrated a prototype resilient PNT (positioning, navigation and timing) system. The system used an alternative technology to automatically and seamlessly step in to transmit mission-critical data in the event of GPS loss or failure. The trials were successfully completed between 28th February and 1st March.

Today, many devices and applications rely on GPS-based information and it plays a fundamental role in delivering the PNT data that ships rely on to ensure safe navigation.

GPS signals are vulnerable to interference from space weather, however, accidental jamming and deliberate threats have recently been highlighted as serious concerns because of the wide availability of inexpensive GPS jammers online.

Even the cheapest jammers are capable of causing complete outages across all receivers currently on the market.

Building on two previous trials conducted by the General Lighthouse Authorities (GLA) in 2008 and 2010 which investigated the impact of GPS service denial, this latest demonstration is the first time that an automatic and seamless solution has been demonstrated in a real-world scenario.

The prototype system was integrated into the bridge of the vessel and monitored the performance of independent PNT sources in order to provide the ‘best’ available.

As such, when GPS was deliberately jammed, the system switched automatically to provide eLoran derived PNT information to the connected bridge systems, allowing them to maintain operation and enabling the mariner to continue to navigate safely and efficiently.