Anti-Jamming Drones Could Protect the Naval Observatory

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Navy Precision Optical Interferometer, Flagstaff, Arizona (Source: WikiCommons)

A Canadian GPS company is partnering with the U.S. defense department to make sure the nation’s top astronomical installations always have a clear signal – and drones will provide that protection from the air.

Calgary-based NovAtel, a global provider of OEM GPS technology announced this week that the U.S. Naval Observatory will be using the company’s anti-jamming technology (dubbed GAJT) to protect GPS-based navigational and scanning equipment from signal interference.

Although most people think of the Observatory as the home of the Vice-President, the USNO maintains two installations that, among other things, determine the positions of the earth, moon and other celestial bodies as well as providing the “master clock” for the U.S. Any attempt to jam USNO signals could jeopardize tons of astronomical data as well cost millions of dollars to the navy.

One method the navy will use to deploy the anti-jamming antenna will be via drones – a platform already tested by NovAtel. In March, the company installed the technology on Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 quadcopters, according to a NovAtel press release.

NovAtel’s antenna system will also satisfy the defense department’s requirement for a Controlled Reception Pattern Antenna (CRPA) capability within the military’s core information network. The global network provides “secure and sensitive voice, data, video and bandwidth services.” For NovAtel, such a high watermark could pave the way for more military agreements.

“This [equipment] order underlines our ability to deliver GAJT in volume and on time,” NovAtel CEO Michael Ritter said in a press release. “GAJT has now been shipped and is in use operationally by 12 allied nations around the globe.”

The purchase is just one instance in a long line of defensive measures by the U.S. military to both use drones and anti-drone technology.

In April, the army began to take steps to develop pocket-sized drones to equip soldiers with palm-sized drones that can scout forward locations and provide enhanced situational awareness.

In 2014, the navy unveiled a five-year, $100 million program to create drones capable of resupplying troops and rescuing injured soldiers from the battlefield.

On the anti-drone front, the navy recently tested Black Dart, an anti-drone capability sensor system, during exercises in the Gulf of Mexico. Two ships conducted drills against Air Force drones that calibrated shipboard detection capabilities and helped officers evaluate anti-drone tactics, techniques and procedures.