False GPS Signals Pose Great Danger to Pilots

False GPS Signals Pose Great Danger to Pilots

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False GPS signals are surging near conflict zones, deceiving onboard plane systems, and complicating the work of airline pilots.

Disruptive issues on planes (like a false ground collision alert despite the plane flying at high altitude) are affecting several regions, including the vicinity of Ukraine, the eastern Mediterranean, and the air corridor running above Iraq, according to pilots and officials interviewed by AFP.

Disruptions of this kind were previously limited to jamming preventing access to signals from geolocation satellites but are now taking a more dangerous form of providing the plane with false coordinates, times, and altitudes.

Providing this false information that contradicts reality makes the plane systems think the plane is in imminent danger. According to Techxplore, the problem is that this “ruined” information enters the navigation system and can cause false alerts hours later, as the flight nears its destination.

While the commonly used GPS only covers the global navigation satellite system (GNSS), there are also the European Galileo and Russia’s GLONASS. Since the war in Ukraine started, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been warning that GNSS signal disruptions have intensified, even affecting relatively remote regions beyond the conflict zone (like Finland and the Mediterranean). EASA claims this can lead to a modified trajectory or even a changed destination in certain cases.

EASA announced in late January that it had made it a priority to act against such disruptions by partnering with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to counter spoofing and jamming.

EASA acting executive director Luc Tytgat explained that while GNSS systems offer tremendous advantages to aviation in increasing the safety of operations in busy shared airspace, they have seen a sharp rise in attacks on these systems, which poses a safety risk.

Tytgat also stated that “in the medium term, we will need to adapt the certification requirements of the navigation and landing systems. For the longer term, we need to ensure we are involved in the design of future satellite navigation systems.”