Saturday, September 30, 2006

Keep Your Maps for 2011

Regrets to you Techno-Addictive Wonks, but those cute little GPS devices may fail a lot in 2011:

Navigation, power and communications systems that rely on GPS satellite navigation will be disrupted by violent solar activity in 2011, research shows.

A study reveals Global Positioning System receivers to be unexpectedly vulnerable to bursts of radio noise produced by solar flares, created by explosions in the Sun's atmosphere.

When solar activity peaks in 2011 and 2012, it could cause widespread disruption to aircraft navigation and emergency location systems that rely heavily on satellite navigation data.

This may be a problem for aircraft navigation. The FAA uses GPS receivers for air traffic control, which Kintner says "will certainly fail" during these intense solar flare radio bursts, which could cause signals to drop by up to 90%, for hours at a time. Although planes can fly without GPS, outages force the FAA to increase the distance between aircraft and slow take-offs and landings, delaying flights.

GPS is also used for emergency rescues and also to synchronise power grids and cellphone networks. One solution, says Kintner, would be to increase the strength of GPS signals. But this would mean redesigning GPS satellite hardware and software

Remedial Map-Reading courses will still be available.

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