03 Jul 2024
by Dr Mireille Elhajj

The Fresh UK PNT Strategy

Attending Space-Comm Expo two weeks ago was an eye-opener on the unflinching work that the UK is doing in PNT. This was highlighted by the two vital re-shared announcements made by John Pottle, the Director of the Royal Institute of Navigation , with his two panellists: Dean Thomas from the UK Space Agency and David Hill, Viasat during his live session on the 7 March. The First from the previous Minister of Science, Research and Innovation George Freeman MP on the creation of a dedicated UK PNT office across sectors and across government, a rare endeavour even in the US, where things are still run in siloes.

The UK is realising the critical and overarching nature of PNT in our daily lives and is following the footprints of PNT autonomy. The UK PNT Office will be created by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and will serve as a central point for PNT policy, coordination, and conveyance, guaranteeing a unified approach over government offices. 

The second was the creation of the UK SBAS led by Viasat on the back of a test flight, flown from Cranfield Airport using the National Flying Laboratory Center's Saab 340B aircraft,  and that showcased that the UK is capable of having its own SBAS that delivers more precise, reliable navigation data for the first time, showing how highly accurate GPS data can be, maximising on safety and improving efficiency. Since the UK is no longer part of the EU's similar European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), following its exit from the European Union, this step towards a UK SBAS is incredibly important to the UK, where  EGNOS can still be used for non-safety applications in the UK, the ViaSat trial aims to provide a first step toward a complementary UK SBAS which can be used for critical safety of life navigation services across air, land, and sea. The system outlines ten key measures and suggestions aimed at upgrading PNT resilience and relieving the impact of disturbances. These two initiatives incorporate developing a crisis plan to be actuated in the event of GNSS service loss, the foundation of a National Timing Centre to supply high-quality timing for the UK, and the investigation of technologies such as eLORAN for reinforcement position and navigation. 

In an increasingly interconnected world, the vulnerability of our satellite-based frameworks has become a pressing concern. The recent revealing of a new system for Greater PNT Resilience by the UK government marks a noteworthy step towards addressing these vulnerabilities and guaranteeing the continuous functioning of critical services. 

Unfortunately, the urgency of this issue cannot be exaggerated, as highlighted within the Blackett report, which underscored the critical conditions of satellite-derived time and position. The report uncovered that disruptions to GNSS could result in staggering financial losses, with the UK confronting a potential loss of £1 billion per day in such an event. 

Moreover, the system adjusts with broader vital activities such as the National Quantum Strategy, emphasising the significance of cutting-edge technologies in supporting PNT versatility. By investing in research and improvement, standards, and testing, the UK points to drive advancement and cultivate development within the PNT sector, situating itself at the forefront of technological progression. 

The foundation of the National PNT Office and the rollout of strong GNSS receiver chips are characteristic of the UK's proactive approach to addressing PNT vulnerabilities. By planning efforts over government, industry, and academia, the UK is laying the groundwork for a strong and resilient PNT environment that can withstand potential disruptions. 

Add to all of this a striving UK Space Agency Accelerator, A UK Space Trade Union and a UK Space ecosystem, UKspace, and a dedicated Welsch Space Space Wales participating in 10% of the UK Space Industry. 

The launch of the Greater PNT Resilience system heralds a new era of strategic planning and collaboration to defend space-based frameworks. With the UK driving the charge, partners across segments are coming together to brace PNT capabilities and guarantee the continuous functioning of critical services. By investing in resilience, development, and technological leadership, the UK is not only ensuring its interests but moreover laying the foundation for a more secure and strong future. 

References 

GOV.UK. (2023). Critical services to be better protected from satellite data disruptions through new Position, Navigation and Timing framework. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/critical-services-to-be-better-protected-from-satellite-data-disruptions-through-new-position-navigation-and-timing-framework 

UK Sovereign Satellite Navigation Overlay Successfully Demonstrated for First Time | Viasat, Inc. 

Jnally. (2023, November 5). The UK’s new plan for PNT resilience. Spatial Source. https://www.spatialsource.com.au/the-uks-new-plan-for-pnt-resilience/ 

GOV.UK. (2022). The UK Government Resilience Framework: 2023 Implementation Update. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/656def711104cf0013fa7498/The_UK_Government_Resilience_Framework_2023_Implementation_Update.pdf 

Satellite-derived Time and Position (publishing.service.gov.uk) 


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Authors

Dr Mireille Elhajj

Dr Mireille Elhajj

Founder, Astra-Terra

Dr Mireille Elhajj is the founder of London-based boutique consultancy Astra-Terra, a company specialising in Positioning, Navigation Timing, Earth Observation (EO) data modelling and analysis,  and Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) with an emphasis on space and infrastructure, including intelligent transportation. (www.astraterra.com). She is also a Fellow at The Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) and a Senior Honorary Lecturer at Imperial College London. Dr. Elhajj has a background in PNT, systems engineering, space applications and transportation. Previously, she was the Director of the Integrated Space Science Engineering Program (executive and continuing education) and an Advanced Research Fellow at Imperial College London's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. A Lecturer and an “Infrastructure and Space Science Fellow” at the Institute of Security Science and Resilience.  

She has published various papers in Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT), Interference mitigation and novel integrity monitoring methods for multiple applications in telematics and smart cities. 

She holds a PhD from Imperial College London, where she researched using new GPS signals to improve accuracy for surface transport with TfL London. She has an MSc in Financial Analysis and Fund Management (FAFM) from Exeter University and an MSc in Transport Engineering from Imperial College London. She is a member of the International Advisory Board (IAB) at Imperial College London Civil and Environmental Engineering and a member of the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services, (RTCM) and a member of the technical committee at the RIN. She is also the Chairman of the Scale- up Council at TechUK .   

She is an advisory board member of Kantar Advisory Partners, a sustainability tech company based in London.As an advocate of capacity building ,she is a mentor at the Talal and Madiha Zein AUB-Innovation Park and the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub. 

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