What’s New: A recent GAO report says DOT could improve responses to GPS jamming incidents and increase protection for all forms of transportation.
Why it matters: GPS is essential to safe and efficient transportation, especially aviation.
- A passenger aircraft nearly crashed near Sun Valley, ID due to GPS jamming in 2019.
- Pilots at Denver International reported safety concerns (including an aborted landing) during a January 2022 jamming incident.
- Jamming near Dallas-Fort Worth in October 2022 disrupted traffic, caused gate delays.
- The above are just examples. GPS jamming regularly interferes with navigation, ADS-B, other systems.
What government did:
- The source of interference in Sun Valley was never found.
- Investigators took 33 hours to find and turn off the Denver interference.
- The Dallas-Fort Worth incident lasted 44 hours and the source was never found.
- A DHS report on the Denver incident:
- Was issued 11 months later.
- Did not say what the problem was or how to prevent future incidents.
- Did not say why it took the government so long to stop the jamming.
- DOT identified GPS interference as a real problem in 2001.
- GPS is seen as a DOD program. Funding for DOT to make civil users safer over the last 20 years has been minimal.
- China, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the U.K. have ground-based GPS-like systems and are less vulnerable to satnav interference than the U.S.
GPS improves transportation safety, but is vulnerable to interference from radio signal jamming or other sources. The Department of Transportation is responsible for identifying GPS interference incidents and improving the transportation sector’s ability to withstand and recover from them.
We found that DOT’s process for identifying incidents doesn’t produce accurate or complete information and isn’t documented. Also, DOT has efforts underway to improve the sector’s resilience, like researching potential GPS backups. But, it doesn’t yet have a strategic plan to guide and prioritize these efforts.
Our recommendations address these issues.