New data shows extent of UK disruption during failure of Russian GPS satellite navigation system

The General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland (GLAs) have released data showing the extent of effects caused by disruption to the Russian satellite navigation system, GLONASS last week.

The Russian system suffered major disruption on the 2nd April 2014, with all of the satellites in the constellation reportedly producing corrupted information for almost 12 hours.

Readings from the GLAs’ GLONASS receiver in Harwich, UK, show locations errors of up to 55km off the UK coastline.

Nick Ward, Research Director at the General Lighthouse Authorities, said “We have known for a long time that satellite navigation systems are vulnerable to interference and this event demonstrates just how dangerous a failure can be. Our data shows that, during the prolonged disruption, GLONASS was providing location data up to 55 kilometres out off the UK coast. The potential implications of such failures are severe. A vessel travelling in coastal waters, for example, could face vastly increased chances of grounding or collision, and ultimately loss of lives and cargo, as well as pollution. Such a problem could occur with GPS, Galileo, or any other GNSS without any warning.

“Clearly a reliable backup to GPS in needed to prevent such disruptions threatening safety and the operation of key infrastructure. Currently the most viable and cost effective backup is eLoran, a long-range radio system that the UK is supporting. eLoran will take over automatically if GPS is disturbed, ensuring the reliability of vital navigation data. A number of other countries, including Russia, are also developing similar systems to backup GPS, however it will only be truly robust if the system can make use of radio transmissions from transmitters covering journeys throughout the world.”

GLONASS and other GNSS systems are used for navigation around the world and are instrumental in the operation of infrastructure like telecommunications and energy supply. All satellite navigation systems share the same failure points and operate in a limited frequency band. This and their distance from Earth make their weak signals susceptible to both accidental and deliberate interference as well as the upload of faulty data, thought to have caused the GLONASS problems.

About the General Lighthouse Authorities

The General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the United Kingdom and Ireland are Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board and the Commissioners of Irish Lights. Together, they have the statutory responsibility for the provision of marine aids to navigation (AtoN) around the British Isles. The GLAs' joint mission is the delivery of a reliable, efficient and cost effective AtoN service for the benefit and safety of all mariners.

More information about the General Lighthouse Authorities of UK and Ireland's Research and Radio navigation Department can be found at

Press contact:

Alex Cloney at Proof Communication

Tel: +44 (0)845 680 1872 and +44 (0)7506 022367

Published Thursday, April 10th, 2014

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