Seen & Heard: April 2019

April 26, 2019  - By
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Check out some GPS developments that have recently taken place around the world. (Click to enlarge; Map: iStock.com/nadla)

Map: iStock.com/nadla

A new use for GNSS satellites University of Padua researchers say GNSS satellites make possible global quantum communication, beaming information between a satellite and an Earth-based ground station. They exchanged a single photon over 20,000 kilometers to prove secure quantum communications can be implemented on a global scale using GNSS. Results show the first exchange of a few photons per pulse between two GLONASS satellites, using the passive retro-reflectors mounted on the satellites, and the Space Geodesy Centre of the Italian Space Agency. The results could provide solutions for GNSS security for satellite-to-ground and inter-satellite links by using quantum information protocols for quantum key distribution. (Photo: Italian Space Agency)

Click to enlarge. (Photo: Italian Space Agency)

1. A new use for GNSS satellites

University of Padua researchers say GNSS satellites make possible global quantum communication, beaming information between a satellite and an Earth-based ground station. They exchanged a single photon over 20,000 kilometers to prove secure quantum communications can be implemented on a global scale using GNSS. Results show the first exchange of a few photons per pulse between two GLONASS satellites, using the passive retro-reflectors mounted on the satellites, and the Space Geodesy Centre of the Italian Space Agency. The results could provide solutions for GNSS security for satellite-to-ground and inter-satellite links by using quantum information protocols for quantum key distribution.


GRITSS to improve reference frame University of Massachusetts Lowell researchers have received a two-year, $1.2 million grant from NASA’s Earth Science Division to develop a Geodetic Reference Instrument Transponder for Small Satellites (GRITSS) to significantly improve the accuracy of the International Terrestrial Reference Frame — the basis of GPS positioning and navigation. A virtual map of the Earth, the ITRF pinpoints specific geographic positions and describes Earth’s precise shape, physical topography, orientation and rotation with time based on a stationary, Earth-centered coordinate system.  The location of each GPS satellite is defined within the ITRF. (Photo: NASA)

Click to enlarge. (Photo: NASA)

2. GRITSS to improve reference frame

University of Massachusetts Lowell researchers have received a two-year, $1.2 million grant from NASA’s Earth Science Division to develop a Geodetic Reference Instrument Transponder for Small Satellites (GRITSS) to significantly improve the accuracy of the International Terrestrial Reference Frame — the basis of GPS positioning and navigation. A virtual map of the Earth, the ITRF pinpoints specific geographic positions and describes Earth’s precise shape, physical topography, orientation and rotation with time based on a stationary, Earth-centered coordinate system.  The location of each GPS satellite is defined within the ITRF.


Pigeon scientists Engineers from the University of Birmingham have developed a compact backpack to collect climate and pollution data. When the birds return to their lofts, the sensors are retrieved and the data downloaded, including GPS location, temperature, humidity, ambient light and air pressure. So far, scientists have been able to collect data from five birds — they made a total of 41 flights with a total length of about 1,000 kilometers. (Photo: Rick Thomas)

Click to enlarge. (Photo: Rick Thomas)

3. Pigeon scientists

Engineers from the University of Birmingham have developed a compact backpack to collect climate and pollution data. When the birds return to their lofts, the sensors are retrieved and the data downloaded, including GPS location, temperature, humidity, ambient light and air pressure. So far, scientists have been able to collect data from five birds — they made a total of 41 flights with a total length of about 1,000 kilometers.


China’s big brother program Evidence that China is tracking its Uyghur Muslim population in the Xinjiang region has been uncovered. A facial recognition database was left open on the internet for months, Dutch security researcher Victor Gevers told ZDNet. The database contains information on 2.5 million people, along with a stream of GPS coordinates. Data includes detailed and sensitive information: names, ID card data, addresses, photos and employers, as well as GPS coordinates where the user had been seen via public cameras labeled mosque, hotel, police station, internet cafe, restaurant and more. (Photo: Victor Gevers/ZDNet)

Click to enlarge. (Photo: Victor Gevers/ZDNet)

4. China’s big brother program

Evidence that China is tracking its Uyghur Muslim population in the Xinjiang region has been uncovered. A facial recognition database was left open on the internet for months, Dutch security researcher Victor Gevers told ZDNet. The database contains information on 2.5 million people, along with a stream of GPS coordinates. Data includes detailed and sensitive information: names, ID card data, addresses, photos and employers, as well as GPS coordinates where the user had been seen via public cameras labeled mosque, hotel, police station, internet cafe, restaurant and more.

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