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GNSS Backup Delivers 5-Meter Accuracy

April 30, 2014  - By

The North Sea fairly boils with GNSS activity recently. Trials of the eLoran back-up for GNSS, Galileo maritime trials, Brad Parkinson’s Protect, Toughen, and Augment sermon at the European Navigation Conference in Rotterdam, and also at that conference, the dramatic release of news concerning an even newer Loran system, enhanced differential Loran, that not only backs up GNSS in the event of disruption or jamming, but delivers 5-meter accuracy in the process. Imagine that — the back-up matching the first team in performance!

Durk van Willigen, René Kellenbach, and Cees Dekker of the Dutch consulting firm Reelektronika, and Wim van Buuren of the Dutch Pilots’ Corporation authored the ENC presentation about enhanced differential Loran, with results that greatly — and pleasantly — surprised many in the audience. A full technical article by these authors, describing the equipment, methodology, and test results of eDLoran, will appear in the July issue of GPS World. This column delivers a brief summary of the highlights.

The new Loran project arose from the need of harbor pilots responsible for bringing large and super-large freight ships into dock. These pilots require GNSS-level accuracies of 5 meters for such work, and all parties concerned — pilots, captains, ship owners, harbor management — need some form of robustness, that is, back-up for the GNSS systems in case of jamming, unintentional interference, system failure, or other disruption.

As extensive research had established that 5-meter accuracy cannot be met by the currently tested DLoran system, which cannot get better than 10-meter accuracy. Reelektronika developed a new differential Loran system called enhanced differential Loran, or eDLoran. A full prototype eDLoran system was built and extensively tested in the Europort (Rotterdam) area. The tests achieved accuracies of 5 meters.

For maritime applications, eLoran is considered as the most promising backup for GNSS in case the use of satellite-based navigation signals is denied. The Dutch Pilots’ Corporation askedReelektronika to investigate whether differential Loran could meet the pilots’ 5-meter accuracy requirement for a harbor navigation. This proved to be an enormous challenge as preliminary tests showed that even 10 meters was difficult to achieve with differential Loran (DLoran) as promoted by the UK’s Trinity House/General Lighthouse Authority (see item below about Harwich UK tests by GLA and ACCESS). The challenge had led to a thorough investigation of all possible error sources of a complete differential Loran system.

Differential techniques developed and implemented for Loran are comparable with differential GPS. Although the error sources of GPS and Loran are quite different, the major common error source in both systems is the lack of accurate propagation models.

This led to a new research project to find a more accurate differential Loran technique. All possible error sources have been investigated again where possible, which resulted in some unexpected results regarding accuracies and costs.

Enhanced Differential Loran: eDLoran

The new concept of differential Loran had to fulfill two important primary improvements. The first is a significant reduction in the latency of the data in the data channel; the second is that a large number of reference stations should be capable of receiving the data channel, without saturating the data channel. The simple conclusion was that Eurofix could not meet these two improvements. However, Eurofix is still the prime GNSS backup candidate for distributing accurate UTC over very large parts of Europe. Further, Eurofix has the capability to send short messages that might be encrypted for secure communication purposes which might then form a terrestrial backup, for example, Galileo PRS.

Instead of using the Eurofix channel, eDLoran uses the public mobile GSM (Global System for Mobile) network to send the differential corrections to users. eDLoran receivers therefore contain a simple modem for connection to the GSM network. The eDLoran reference stations are also connected to the Internet which may be implemented via a cabled access or also via a GSM modem.Fortunately, today many GSM networks are robust in respect of GPS outages.

The eDLoran infrastructure is not connected with any eLoran transmitter station and operates completely autonomously. An eDLoran reference station is connected to a central eDLoran server by its connection to the network.

eDLoran Results

Both static and dynamic tests have been carried out. Here, only the final result of the dynamic test is presented. For full details on both sets of tests, see the upcoming full-length technical article in the July issue of GPS World magazine.

The results have been demonstrated to the harbor authorities in real-time on the laptop of the pilots on which the GPS-RTK and the eDLoran position were simultaneously shown. The logged GPS-RTK data is plotted on a Google Earth map shown in the accompanying figure. The track was widened to 10 metres as the accuracy requirements are 5 metres on either side of the track. The raw eLoran track is also shown, as well as the final white eDLoran track.

The red track is based on raw eLoran data without any corrections. The transparent blue line is made by GPS-RTK and is widened to 10 metres giving the required ± 5 metre limits of eDLoran. The white line is output from the eDLoran receiver which stays within the borders of the 10-meter-wide transparent blue line.

The red track is based on raw eLoran data without any corrections. The transparent blue line is made by GPS-RTK and is widened to 10 metres giving the required ± 5 metre limits of eDLoran. The white line is output from the eDLoran receiver which stays within the borders of the 10-meter-wide transparent blue line.


The outcome of the research opens some new and quite surprising possibilities for multiple applications. Only a few of the authors’ conclusions appear here:

  1. eDLoran offers the best possible eLoran accuracy as it does not suffer from swaying wire antennas, sub-optimal timing control of the transmitter station and differential data latency.
  2. There is no need to replace older Loran-C stations with eLoran transmitters saving large amounts of money. The existing Loran stations have a proven reliability track record. Further savings may be obtained by containerising the transmitter and operating the stations unmanned.
  3. Installing eDLoran reference stations is fast, simple and very cost effective.
  4. As there is no data channel bandwidth limitation, multiple reference stations can be installed which offers increased reliability and makes the system more robust against terrorism and lightning damage.
  5. A single or multiple eDLoran servers can be installed in a protected area. There is hardly a practical limit in the number of differential reference stations to serve.

To round out our North Sea reporting, here is other recent news:

Enhanced Loran

In March, the UK General Lighthouse Authority (GLA) and Accessibility for Shipping, Efficiency Advantages and Sustainability (ACCSEA) announced that on several excursions aboard the THV Galatea out of Harwich, UK, they successfully demonstrated a prototype resilient positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) system using enhanced Loran (eLoran) technology to automatically and seamlessly step in to transmit mission-critical data in the event of GPS loss or failure. (Note that in the preceding Reelektronika section of this column, the GLA enhanced Loran is referred to as differential Loran, while the Dutch system is called enhanced differential Loran.)

Building on two previous trials conducted by the GLA in 2008 and 2010 which investigated the impact of GPS service denial, this latest demonstration is the first time that an automatic and seamless solution has been demonstrated in a real-world scenario. The prototype system was integrated into the bridge of the vessel and monitored the performance of independent PNT sources in order to provide the ‘best’ available. As such, when GPS was deliberately jammed, the system switched automatically to eLoran and provided eLoran-derived PNT information to the connected bridge systems, allowing them to maintain operation and enabling the mariner to continue to navigate safely and efficiently.

ACCSEAS is taking advantage of the availability of the prototype eLoran transmitter at Anthorn and eight other Loran stations around the North Sea Region, but few vessels currently have receivers. Most recently, in January 2013, a differential Loran station was installed at Dover, UK, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, enabling mariners to obtain port approach level accuracies using eLoran within this area; and a receiver was fitted on a P&O Ferries vessel. The successful demonstration of the prototype resilient PNT system is a significant step towards gaining traction for the technology in the shipping industry worldwide.

By 2014, eLoran Initial Operational Capability is expected in seven major ports along the East Coast of the UK, with full operational capability covering all major ports expected by 2019.

Galileo Maritime Trials

Results are being processed from the first Galileo maritime trials outside of mainland Europe. The long-range, high-latitude testing spanned the North Sea aboard Belgian frigate Leopold I-F930, carrying multiple Galileo receivers for both Galileo’s public Open Service (OS) and secure Public Regulated Service (PRS).

Protect, Toughen, Augment GNSS

“What can we do to reduce the vulnerability [of GPS] and ensure that the expectations of the public are going to be met?” asked Dr. Bradford Parkinson as he opened his keynote presentation at the European Navigation Conference, ENC-GNSS 2014 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Parkinson went through his 61-slide, 50-minute briefing on what he called “PTA” — Protect, Toughen, and Augment — a proposal concerning not only GPS but PNT systems globally. An article by Parkinson based on this talk will highlight the special 25th Anniversary edition of GPS World, to appear in conjunction with this year’s July issue. A brief outline appears here.

This article is tagged with , , , and posted in Opinions

About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.

3 Comments on "GNSS Backup Delivers 5-Meter Accuracy"

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  1. It about time to backup GNSS, and welcome for future marine navigation, particularly inland!

    Jack Herther, long time eLoran advocate

  2. Walter Greene says:

    Doesn’t GSM rely on GNSS signals to maintain timing/synchronization?

    • Craig Roberts says:


      I believe so and I am pretty sure that ATMs at banks also use GPS timing for financial transactions but I would love to hear confirmation on that and/or what backups are in place.