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Loran back-up to GPS back on the agenda

On-air tests are being conducted from the former Loran Support Unit site in New Jersey, as a result of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between the US Coast Guard and UrsaNav, which could lead to the system being offered as a potential back-up to the Global Positioning System (GPS).

One of the CRADA’s goals is to research, evaluate, and document a wireless technical approach as an alternative to GPS for providing precise time. Additional on-air tests are planned at various sites throughout the United States.

Broadcasts will test several different frequencies, waveforms, and modulation techniques, including advanced methods of LF data delivery, with reception of these broadcasts planned at both on-shore and off-shore locations.

UrsaNav has joined the project as a provider of Low Frequency Alternative Positioning, Navigation, Timing, and Data services, including eLoran Timing Receivers, and has partnered with Symmetricom, a company specialising in precise time synchronisation, and Nautel, a supplier of RF transmitters.

This announcement has been welcomed by the General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland (GLA) as an addition to the new set of low-frequency (LF) services being trialled on both sides of the Atlantic.

The GLAs say that a 'sky-free' timing service, like the one UrsaNav will be radiating in the US, is already available in trial mode across the British Isles and some other parts of Europe using the GLAs' prototype enhanced Loran (eLoran) system, plus combined GPS+eLoran timing receivers.

In addition, the GLAs hope that eLoran transmissions may, in the future, support navigation using eLoran as a complement to Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as GPS. eLoran can provide a nation-wide data channel, that will benefit from the techniques being developed to give higher data capacity LF data transmissions.


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