Inside GNSS: Brussels View: Europe’s Sharp Eye on Positioning, Navigation and Timing

NextNav was mentioned in a recent article in Inside GNSS, about the important role that GNSS plays and alternative PNT (positioning, navigation, and timing) solutions, including NextNav’s TerraPoiNT solution in recent European Commission testing.

From the article:

GNSS is today’s fundamental technology for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), serving billions of users every day and providing enabling data for all manner of crucial public, private, industrial, commercial and financial applications. Basic GNSS infrastructure, such as GPS and Galileo satellite constellations and ground segments, must continue to be maintained and developed.

At the same time, the inherent weaknesses of these systems have been recognized and European entities are taking action to ensure reliable and accurate PNT remains available under all circumstances and in more and more scenarios.

In 2020, the European Commission issued a call for tenders for the demonstration of non-GNSS PNT technologies. These were to be completely independent of GNSS, having no common points of failure with that technology. The initiative was similar to one organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2020. The results of the EC initiative, which was open to companies from outside the European Union (EU), including the United States, were presented in May at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra.

Speaking at the event, the JRC’s PNT and GNSS Resilience Specialist Lukasz Bonenberg said, “What we currently are seeing in society is an overreliance on GNSS. We need a back-up system to be ready in case of an outage to increase the resilience of the EU economy. There are also potential economic benefits of the development and implementation of such technologies. The objective of the call for tender was to help us better understand the mature technologies that could deliver positioning, and/or timing information independently from GNSS, resilient to GNSS failure modes and vulnerabilities. Solutions should be able to cover all EU European territory, including in-land waters, and, if possible, to extend PNT provision to environments where GNSS cannot be delivered.”

Aside from demonstrating their systems, participants provided in-depth descriptions of supporting technologies and environments and licensing requirements, and reported cost and timescale details for technology deployment in the EU. The JRC, which is the largest EU facility outside of Brussels and Luxembourg, provided a range of indoor and outdoor test platforms for the demonstrations. Selected participants included OPNT, Seven Solutions, SCPTime, GMV, Satelles, Locata and NextNav.

David Knutson, NextNav senior vice president of network operations and deployment, made the case for his U.S.-based company’s TerraPoiNT, so-called terrestrial GPS, system: “Our terrestrial broadcast beacons provide wide-area, macro or campus coverage. We are resistant to spoofing and jamming, the signal is 100,000 times stronger than GPS, and we offer an encrypted signal. TerraPoiNT is independent of GPS, and we have built-in atomic clocks and the ability to self-synchronize—nanosecond sync—with an absolute time source.” 

NextNav already boasts some high-profile partners, including NASA, which employs TerraPoiNT at the Langley Research Center as part of the CERTAIN program, supporting drone and urban air mobility testing.

TerraPoiNT integrates into GNSS/LTE/5G chipsets at minimal to no cost and is frequency agile. At the JRC, using three beacons and testing only for time synchronization and z-axis vertical positioning, NextNav demonstrated timing stability within 15 ns 90% of the time across the network and end receiver, and vertical positioning accuracy of within +/- 1m 90% of the time through the entire test.

Read the full article here.