UK 'dangerously dependent on GPS'

The UK has become dangerously over-reliant on GPS satellite navigation equipment, a report has warned.

The paper from the Royal Academy of Engineering further warned that the use of back-up systems is often useless as equipment to illegally jam the systems are easily and cheaply available.

Dr Martyn Thomas, chairman of the academy's Global Navigation Space Systems (GNSS) working group, said that with roads, rails and shipping equipment being so dependent on GNSS, a failure in the system could "just conceivably cause loss of life".

He added: "The UK is already dangerously dependent on GPS.

"GPS and other GNSS are so useful and so cheap to build into equipment that we have become almost blindly reliant on the data they give us.

"A significant failure of GPS could cause lots of services to fail at the same time, including many that are thought to be completely independent of each other."

The report said that GNSS was vulnerable to deliberate or accidental interference, with people jamming systems or equipment being affected by solar flares.

Sometimes faulty information from a system failure was so wrong that it would be easily spotted, the report said.

But it added that the real threat lay in "dangerously misleading" results which may not seem obviously wrong. In such a situation, a ship, say, could be directed only slightly off course by faulty data but could then be steering into danger.

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