In September, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a Request for Information (RFI) to seek industry input on Complementary Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (CPNT) technologies.
Earlier this year, the European Commission’s (EC) science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), issued its report Assessing Alternative Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Technologies for Potential Deployment in the EU. It summarized the assessment of seven Alternative PNT (A-PNT) platforms which occurred between October 2021 and July 2022. The report concluded that commercially available mature A-PNT technologies already exist in the market that can provide positioning and/or timing information independently from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). It also emphasized the importance of a system of interoperable technologies supported by standards for resilient PNT.
The key question is whether any of the technologies reviewed in the JRC Report will emerge as serious contenders for CPNT in the U.S. Yet, before comparing the requirements of the JRC and DOT, it is important to note that the DOT’s CPNT and the EC’s A-PNT do not refer to the same thing. Although the EC defines A-PNT as “backup solutions” that provide PNT independently from GNSS, the DOT’s CPNT systems are described as resilient PNT technologies that offer complementary service in the event of GPS disruption, denial, or manipulation.
However, the DOT’s CPNT Plan reveals an evolution of thinking. It states that CPNT technologies must provide increased capability rather than merely acting as a backup to GPS. It also highlights the need for “mature” technology with a significant threat posture against capable actors. The DOT is actively seeking interoperable tech to form a comprehensive CPNT ecosystem.
Both the U.S. and EC heavily depend on GNSS services for PNT across various sectors. The need for alternative PNT/CNPT technologies arises from the vulnerabilities associated with GNSS services, including jamming and spoofing incidents. These vulnerabilities pose a threat to critical infrastructure and the daily socio-economic activities of multiple countries. In response to these threats, the U.S., EU, and other countries are looking to implement robust and resilient PNT services.
While the JRC Report may provide some relevant insights for a DOT CPNT solution, the report’s findings are regarded as a qualitative assessment rather than a benchmark. The report highlighted several technologies that demonstrated potential as holistic CPNT system-of-systems solutions. However, further evaluation and testing are required to determine the suitability of these technologies.
Overall, the goals of the DOT and EC align in seeking resilient and interoperable PNT technologies. The DOT’s recent RFI and the JRC Report reflect the urgency to find mature technologies to address the vulnerabilities associated with GNSS services and ensure continued operation.