The complementary future of positioning, navigation and timing

This panel, moderated by Todd Simon, the founder Geospatial Alpha, discusses the increasingly critical role positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) plays in our lives and its potential competitors.

Simon is joined on stage at the 39th annual Space Symposium by Dennis Akos, professor of aerospace engineering sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder; Rodrigo da Costa, executive director of the European Union Agency for the Space Program; Karen Van Dyke, director of the Office of PNT at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT); and Cordell DeLaPena, program executive officer for Military Communications and Positioning, Navigation, and Timing at Space Systems Command.

Simon opens the conversation discussing the pros and cons between Global Navigation Satellite Systems (such as the United States’ GPS) and alternative PNT technologies, such as regional and commercial sources.

“This is not something that is either/or. It’s not mutually exclusive,” DeLaPena said. “We’ve got to really find that balance and harmony between what I consider a layered defense for the future.”

Van Dyke highlighted the DOT’s Complementary PNT Action Plan, which aims to strengthen national security and support civil and scientific progress. The DOT’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center conducted multiple field tests of candidate PNT technologies that could “offer complementary service in the event of GPS disruptions.”

“We use the term complementary, not alternate, because we don’t think it’s alternate to GPS,” Van Dyke said. “It really is building upon GPS and using GPS when it’s available, but recognizing there is a need for other PNT solutions for resiliency.”