The last time the Sun reached a peak in activity, satellite navigation was barely a consumer product.Imagine being stuck in the Metro because the train still thinks it's somewhere out on the tracks. I use a GPS for work on occasion, and of course, I have one on my boat, which I use largely as an expensive speedometer. I have yet to need it to get home in the fog. Maybe it's a good thing we're heading into what appears to be a far lower than average sunspot cycle (even if it's not obvious from the last few days). I wonder if GPS equipped smart phones will start giving people misleading information and inappropriate ads as a result of GPS errors.
But the Sun is on its way to another solar maximum, which could generate large and unpredictable sat-nav errors.
It is not just car sat-nav devices that make use of the satellite signals; accurate and dependable sat-nav signals have, since the last solar maximum, quietly become a necessity for modern infrastructure.
Military operations worldwide depend on them, although they use far more sophisticated equipment.
Sat-nav devices now form a key part of emergency vehicles' arsenals. They are used for high-precision surveying, docking ships and they may soon be used to automatically land commercial aircraft.
Closer to home, more and more trains depend on a firm location fix before their doors will open.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Solar Flares May Affect GPS
Sat-nav devices face big errors as solar activity rises