The Importance of Secure Communications


Dr Nigel Davies CEng FIET Chief Engineer, Secured Navigation

With ever-increasing connectivity and digitalisation, the need for resilient, robust and secure information processing, situational awareness and communications is not just important.

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It’s absolutely vital - especially in mission critical and highly sensitive environments such as defence and critical national infrastructure as well as all areas of commerce and highly regulated areas of public service. The threats to a digitally enabled and digitally dependent society are very real, very significant and are constantly evolving.

One area where operational resilience and threats to national security are currently in very sharp focus is in relation to Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT). Here, our expertise and experience in global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) has been well documented. It’s not just the satnav on your car and an app on your mobile phone, though. Such information is of critical importance for the military, critical national infrastructure (CNI), emergency services as well as countless other organisations, and we provide a range of technologies to provide such mission-critical users with continuously available, resilient and highly accurate PNT.

Significantly, such technologies provide operational assurance in the face of threats to defence and national security from the most highly resourced, capable and determined adversaries including criminal and state actors. Building on our expertise in GNSS and GPS receivers and multi-sensor integration, we are able to provide navigation resilience from interference, jamming, spoofing and cyber attacks in even the most dynamic and demanding environments including those where satellite navigation sources are degraded or denied. Our award-winning Q20HD high dynamics GPS receiver, for example, provides a unique capability that underpins a number of advanced high dynamics complex weapon systems to improve their effectiveness and to minimise collateral damage.

We are also in the process of developing a new family of secured GNSS receivers to provide high-integrity satellite navigation solutions that mitigate against the wide range of threats. The new Q40 generation of receivers use multiple GNSS constellations, multi-frequency reception as well as special RF, digital signal processing and navigation processing to mitigate interference, spoofing and cyber threats. There can also be integrated with anti-jam antennas and other sensors (including inertial, magnetometers, barometric sensors etc) to increase resilience.

Consequently, they will offer enhanced resilience and accuracy in defence, critical national infrastructure, autonomy and other high value industrial/commercial applications and will also address the unique challenges of low signal and highly dynamic environments.Here in the UK, the Government is now developing a new PNT strategy that will consist of a system-of-systems PNT architecture using a mix of technologies to deliver the required resilience for different users. We are contributing to this new thinking with our continuing work on advanced satellite navigation receivers as well as the development of new GNSS free technologies to complement existing systems and deliver even more resilient PNT solutions.

These will include navigation using signals of opportunity, celestial navigation and the innovative use and integration of new sensor technologies.Knowing where you are, where you’re going, how to get there and when you’ll arrive has never been as precise as it is today …. and it’s all thanks to increasingly sophisticated capabilities derived from space. However, delivering and maintaining security, reliability and resilience for any PNT solution at all times is the only way to protect such invaluable information from malicious attacks. We are using our know-how and insight to do just that.