Cornell University researchers undertaking analysis into the effects of solar flaring on GPS claim that the increased solar activity expected in 2011-2012 will cause sustained GPS signal level drops of up to 90% for a period of a few hours. It is expected that these signal-drop outs may have significant consequences for 'safety-of-life' applications such as navigating passenger jets, stabilising floating oil rigs and locating mobile phone distress calls.
Paul Kinter of Cornell University suggested that the only feasible solutions were to equip receivers with weak signal-tracking algorithms or to increase the signal power from the satellites. However, the former requires additional compromises to receiver design, and the latter requires a new satellite design that neither exists nor is planned.
"I think the best remedy is to be aware of the problem and operate GPS systems with the knowledge that they may fail during a solar flare," Kintner said.
Key words: Geographic information