GPS back-up: World War Two technology employed

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GPS back-up: World War Two technology employed

Technology developed during World War Two is to be used as a back-up for GPS.

The General Lighthouse Authorities (GLA) have announced that they have installed a system called eLoran in seven ports across Britain.

The GLA say many critical instruments on ships use Global Navigation Satellite Systems, and if they fail the consequences could be disastrous.

The new system, which is ground rather than satellite-based, is designed to be used in the event of a GPS failure.

“All vessels that sail today are massively dependent on GPS, ” Martin Bransby, research and radio navigation manager for the General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland, told the BBC’s technology programme Click.

“It is their primary means of navigation – and a massive number of instruments rely on it too.

“If you don’t have it, you are dead in the water.”

Testing for eLoran has taken place in Felixstowe, the busiest container port in the UK.

Each year, three million containers are brought in on some of the biggest ships in the world.

Safely manoeuvring these vessels in this packed waterway is vital, and currently the only way to do this is with the help of GPS.

Onboard the Galatea, a ship that is 80m (260ft) long, the GLA have been finding out what happens if the satellite system goes wrong.

Martin Bransby demonstrates a GPS failure by pulling the plug on the ship’s receiver.

Within a few seconds, alarms start to sound on the bridge as one by one the instruments stop working.

“This is the gyrocompass – it steers the ship – you can see it starting to fail,” says Mr Bransby.

“If we walk over here, this is the radar, and that’s not working either. This is the dynamic positioning: it holds the ship’s position, that’s not working.

“The electronic chart display becomes unusable. Even the ship’s clock stops working.”

In a series of tests, the GLA have found that almost every bit of kit on the boat uses GPS – even the onboard satellite entertainment system.

Mr Bransby says: “You can imagine standing watch on this ship, it’s the middle of the night, it’s dark, it’s foggy, you are in the English Channel, and then this happens.

“What do you do? You’re in a right mess, basically.”

Read the full BBC News story at:

via GPS back-up: World War Two technology employed.


Intriguing story of the past coming back to haunt the present by Steven (G7VFY).  The UK-based General Lighthouse Authorities have installed a ground-based navigation system on all large container ships. The eLoran system will kick in if satellite navigation systems fail.  The eLoran system is ground-based rather than satellite-based GPS systems. The modified Loran system may date back to World War II, but it works, and will save lives and cargo if it has to be used again.  Sometimes it pays to keep workable technology alive in the digital age.  Speaking of which, how many of us amateur radio operators have a tube transceiver handy if a large CME “fries” the solid state circuits of our modern radios? My old Drake TR-4 still works.  How about you?

For the latest Amateur Radio news and events, please check out the blog sidebars.  These news feeds are updated daily.

Aloha es 73 de Russ (KH6JRM).

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