First Fix: Three recent articles that prove GNSS is constantly in the news

April 11, 2024  - By

In one way or another, GNSS is constantly in the news, even though it rarely makes the headlines. Three recent articles prove this point.

Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio

The article “Starburst” in the March 4 issue of The New Yorker, written by staff writer Kathryn Schulz, details how the next big solar storm could devastate the U.S. power grid and communication systems and questions whether we are prepared for it. Schulz focuses repeatedly on the key role of GNSS and how devastating it would be if their signals were disrupted by a solar storm. She points out that a large solar storm has not occurred since widespread electrification, let alone in the digital age, and that some scientists now believe there is an approximately 12% chance of an extreme geomagnetic storm striking Earth in the next decade. “The Army,” Schulz wrote, “concerned about overreliance on vulnerable technologies, has reinstated courses in orienteering, and the Navy has resumed teaching sailors how to use a sextant.”

A March 12 article in WISPOLITICS — which bills itself as “Wisconsin’s Premier Political News Service” — reports on a letter from the chairman of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, Mike Gallagher, to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. Following reports that U.S. cell phones and other devices are receiving and processing signals from Chinese and Russian GNSS satellites, Gallagher asked Rosenworcel whether it is “contrary to FCC rules for handsets and other devices to receive and process signals from unauthorized GNSS constellations.” I have long wondered the same thing. If any of you readers has a firm understanding of this issue, please let me know. Gallagher also asked whether it is “the responsibility of component vendors, device makers, or carriers to ensure that such signals are not received and processed by devices that use GNSS” and whether the FCC has taken any enforcement actions on this matter.

A March 14 article by Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis in The Wall Street Journal warns that, as its headline says, “Drone Swarms Are About to Change the Balance of Military Power.” Ackerman, a Marine veteran, is the author of numerous books and a senior fellow at Yale’s Jackson School of Global Affairs. Admiral Stavridis, U.S. Navy (ret.), was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and is a partner at the Carlyle Group. “Drones have become suddenly ubiquitous on the battlefield — but we are only at the dawn of this new age in warfare,” they wrote. “[D]ozens or hundreds of drones in AI-directed swarms will have the capacity to overwhelm defenses and destroy even advanced platforms. Nations that depend on large, expensive systems like aircraft carriers, stealth aircraft or even battle tanks could find themselves vulnerable against an adversary who deploys a variety of low-cost, easily-dispersed and long-range unmanned weapons.” While the article focuses on AI and does not mention GNSS, the latter is a key enabling technology for UAVs, as readers of this magazine know well.

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About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at or 541-543-0525.