GPS Jamming: What happens when GPS is down!


In a world where GPS is vital and in fact the most revolutionary positioning method since the days of “celestial object” based navigation, ever wondered what happens if GPS/GNSS is jammed or made unavailable.

Can’t use your smartphone for navigation any more then! Banking services will be hit! A world without GPS (or GNSS) is increasingly becoming difficult to imagine for Defence and Civilians alike.

The main reason the GPS signals can be so easily jammed is because of their low power. GPS Satellites are at an altitude of 20200 Kilometers and any increase in power will dramatically affect the power requirements of the satellites. The only solution is to develop counter-mechanisms and technologies to eliminate and contain such jamming. In a world where a simple $30 device can interfere with GPS signals, it is important to have counter-technologies to eliminate such attempts.

How will the Defense forces counter GPS Jamming? What should they do? These were the questions that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) was working on.

And the answer according to DARPA?

Time and Inertial Measurement Unit. 7 devices in a chip that is smaller than a penny!
Time and Inertial Measurement Unit. 7 devices in a chip that is smaller than a penny!

That small chip sitting on top of one cent coin is the answer! DARPA researchers from the University of Michigan have designed a Timing and Inertial Measurement Unit (TIMU) that can aid in navigation when GPS is temporarily down or unavailable. The single chip TIMU prototype has a six axis IMU coupled together with a master clock.

Although IMUs have been used to aid navigation when GPS is unavailable in places like tunnels, etc., this is probably the smallest IMU on the planet plus it has a in-built timing device. To navigate from A to B, we need to know the orientation, acceleration and time in order to be able to position ourselves. This chip does it all.

Interestingly, TIMU by DARPA only functions when GPS positioning was available initially and is accurate only for a limited period after GPS outage. It cannot prevent GPS jamming or jammers.

What’s the solution then?

NovAtel Inc, Canada came up with a precise answer to that. A GPS device that can nullify the jamming effects using antenna design and noise cancellations techniques. GAJT (read Gadget) is a dual frequency anti-jam antenna that helps GPS devices work even under hostile conditions.

Here’s the video for the product.





I am one of those passionate "Geo-geeks" and "Geo-people" who is just too excited about everything Geo and Management. Location information and spatial technologies are just too big to take a back seat and watch them revolutionize the world. Always curious and looking for ways to innovate, I guess that it comes naturally by the gene pool I inherited from an engineer Mom and a researcher Dad.


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