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UK to explore alternative PNT methods

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a cluster of contracts under which industry will explore novel means of timing and navigation in the event of disruption to global navigation satellite systems (GNSSs).

The Alternative Navigation research initiative will investigate alternative techniques to provide a position, navigation, and timing (PNT) solution in order to improve resilience to GNSS denial.

GNSSs operate by computing signals broadcast from a constellation of synchronised satellites. Its use increasingly underpins precise and secure navigation for military users, but it is vulnerable to interference, spoofing, signal blockage or constellation failure that may result in GNSS denial.

Accordingly, the Space Delivery Team within the MoD's Defence Equipment and Support organisation has placed seven contracts, worth a total of about GBP3.8 million, with six companies. Three different approaches to PNT are being addressed.

Teledyne UK was contracted to explore a resilient timing source that is designed to maintain accuracy if GPS is not available. The focus is on atomic clock technology, particularly Quantum Clocks.

QinetiQ and Roke are to examine approaches utilising signals of opportunity. The aim is to navigate by exploiting radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted for purposes other than navigation (the source is likely to be unknown). Examples include WiFi, TV, radio, mobile phone, and 3G, but in theory any signal of sufficient quality should be selectable. These can be processed through methods such as angle of arrival or time of arrival to understand motion with regards to them.

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