April 20, 2024

The Rising Challenge of False GPS Signals for Pilots

A surge in false GPS signals near conflict zones has been causing significant challenges for airline pilots and aviation industry officials. These deceptive signals are affecting on-board systems, triggering ground collision alerts at high altitudes, and leading to complications in flight operations.

Instances of false GPS signals have been reported in regions such as the vicinity of Ukraine post the Russian invasion, the eastern Mediterranean, and the airspace above Iraq. The origin of these signals is believed to be military-related, adding to the complexity of the issue.

Previously, disruptions caused by jamming prevented access to geolocation satellite signals. Now, these disruptions have evolved into a more hazardous form, known as spoofing, where planes receive false coordinates, times, and altitudes. This misinformation can lead the aircraft systems to believe that there is imminent danger, prompting unnecessary alarms and emergency maneuvers.

Thierry Oriol, a Boeing 777 pilot and member of the SNPL, highlighted an incident where a plane mistakenly thought it was flying above the Alps while departing from Beirut. The adulterated information from false GPS signals entering the navigation system can result in false alerts hours later, potentially affecting the flight’s trajectory and destination.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been monitoring the intensification of GNSS signal disruptions since the conflict in Ukraine began. This has led to modified flight paths and even changes in destination airports due to safety concerns. The EASA and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have partnered to address issues related to spoofing and jamming of GPS signals.

The EASA warns of the safety risks posed by the increasing attacks on GNSS systems and emphasizes the need for adaptation of certification requirements for navigation and landing systems. IATA Director General Willie Walsh stresses the importance of a coordinated approach to collecting and sharing GNSS safety data, developing universal incident guidance, and ensuring the retention of traditional navigation systems as backups in case of signal disruptions.

As the aviation industry continues to rely on GPS systems for safe and efficient operations, addressing the challenges posed by false GPS signals is crucial. Collaborative efforts among regulators, airlines, and industry stakeholders will be essential in safeguarding against the risks associated with spoofing and jamming incidents in the future.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it