The Defense Innovation Unit works with vendors to develop prototype systems that use data from space and other sources, artificial intelligence and machine learning
WASHINGTON — U.S. military and allied forces will test commercial technologies in upcoming exercises that could help detect GPS jamming or other activity disrupting satellite-based navigation.
The project is led by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a Pentagon organization focused on commercial technology. The DIU works with vendors to develop prototype systems that use data from satellites and other sources, artificial intelligence, and machine learning tools to locate intentional interference with GNSS signals.
GNSS, short for Global Navigation Satellite Systems, includes GPS and other constellations that provide Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) services.
“Mapping GPS interference and contextualizing behavioral patterns is key to mitigating the effects of degraded PNT and enabling safe navigation in such conditions,” DIU program manager Lt. Col. Nicholas Estep said in a news release Aug. 17 .
“Rather than designing, building and deploying hardware tailored to capture navigational warfare operations, we are accessing currently available commercial data and analysis to address the need for PNT situational awareness,” Estep said.
The ability to detect GPS jamming and spoofing is a growing priority for DoD and for many industries that rely on GPS as disruptions affect every aspect of operations.
The DIU obtained offers for the project mentioned last autumn Harmonic Tower. It selected several vendors and an NGO to develop prototype systems.
Palo Alto, California resident Orbital Insight announced in February that it had been selected for the project. The company integrates various types of sensor data into its platform, including data from electro-optical, synthetic aperture radar and HF surveillance satellites. It also collects ship traffic data or the automatic identification system; Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast or ADS-B air traffic data hosted on Iridium communications satellites.
The Orbital Insight platform will help identify “deliberate GNSS interference and manipulation operations around the world.” said the company. “The platform will leverage commercially available data to detect GNSS spoofing, which uses fake or manipulated GNSS signals to confuse adversaries or to disguise illegal activity.”
The international nonprofit organization Global fishing watch (GFW) is participation in the project. “Our work focuses on detecting incorrect position data in ships’ automatic identification system (AIS). Some of these incorrect positions result from GNSS interference,” a spokesman said.
GFW is a collaboration between Oceana, an international marine conservation organization; SkyTruth, a technology company that uses satellite imagery and data to protect the environment; and Google.
HawkEye 360 — a geospatial analysis company that uses satellites to track emissions of radio-frequency signals and data analysis to detect GNSS interference — has also been selected to develop a prototype, a DIU spokesman said.
DIU said it will launch GNSS detection prototypes Cooperation and training in Southeast Asia Exercise in Singapore focusing on maritime crises and responding to illegal activities; and the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division command post exercise at the National Training Center in California.
“We need to use non-organic, commercially available software and gear like Harmonious Rook as a stopgap to raise awareness,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Jones of the 1st Armored Division’s Space Support Element. “During the exercise, capabilities will be tested to support intelligence, information operations, and command and control elements with commercial geospatial and navigational warfare awareness at the tactical level.”
DIU said it is working to investigate using publicly available PNT data to glean insights from domestic GPS interference events.
“For widespread users and subscribers who rely on PNT services, any disruption, intentional or unintentional, can result in severe transportation, communications and financial impacts,” DIU said. “This underscores the importance of bringing both government and private industry together to identify, map and mitigate GPS interference as quickly as possible.”
The National Air and Space Intelligence Center and the National Space Intelligence Center (NSIC) participate in the Harmonious Rook project. “It’s a very promising new approach that complements traditional collection methods as it will help our clients by sharing analytics due to the unclassified and commercial nature of the data,” said Scott Feairheller, senior analyst at NSIC.
The Government Accountability Office pointed out in a last report that GNSS interference poses a significant threat to military systems. “Given its ubiquity, denial or interference with GPS capabilities could affect aircraft, ships, munitions, ground vehicles and ground forces in military operations and conflicts, GAO said. “For example, in 2017, the installation of a new system at San Angelo Airport disrupted civilian GPS systems for both ground and air operations within 15 miles.”