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Government outlines framework for PNT resilience

Geroge Freeman
Geroge Freeman
Image source: Richard Townshend, CC BY 3.0

A new framework for the resilience of position, navigation and timing (PNT) has been set out by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).

It includes the setting up of a National PNT Office and possibly a National Timing Centre, along with an update of the crisis plan.

The moves are aimed at supporting the provision of PNT services, which support national critical infrastructure and sectors including emergency services and defence, and have potential to support new technologies such as autonomous vehicles. They are provided largely through global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).

The framework – which is also intended to support growth in the sector – builds on the previous work in government on PNT, including the 2018 Blackett Review on satellite derived time and postion, and a commitment 2021 Integrated Review of security and defence to strengthen the resilience of PNT services.  

Minister of State at DSIT George Freeman, said: “Position, navigation and timing is vital to so many of the public services we rely on daily – from the emergency services to transport, satellites and telecommunications. Enhancing our PNT resilience and long term capabilities is key to both critical national infrastructure, our economic security and resilience and strategic high growth sectors like space, future telecoms, quantum and cyber security.  

“Today’s policy framework, including the creation of our new National PNT Office, is a sign of our commitment to PNT as a key strategic capability.”

Case for spending

The national office will be set up within DSIT and work with other government departments over the coming months to develop business cases for extra resources to be considered in the next Spending Review.

The proposed National Timing Centre would take responsibility for providing resilient terrestrial and high quality timing for the UK including sovereign components and optical clocks.

Other points on the framework are:

  • the updating of the cross-government PNT crisis plan;
  • a proposal to develop Ministry of Defence time to create deeper resilience;
  • a proposal for eLORAN, a sovereign enhanced long range navigation system;
  • the roll out of resilient GNSS receiver chips and development of holdover clocks;
  • a proposal for a UK precise point positioning satellite based augmentation system to replace the UK’s use of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service;
  • the possibility of centres for doctoral training in PNT skills;
  • the development of a PNT growth policy;
  • and the deployment of existing funding into a UK quantum navigator, along with the investigating options for a UK regional satellite system.

The announcement of the framework has been accompanied by the publication of a report on the technical concepts in space based PNT, which explores new approaches to delivering the services.

Strategic thinking

David Henderson, chief geospatial officer at national mapping agency Ordnance Survey, commented: “With new technology enabled ecosystems like autonomous vehicles and digital twins starting to take shape, it’s the perfect time to be thinking in a strategic way about how we use and develop our position, navigation and timing systems.

“We have the infrastructure and know-how in the UK to help us think innovatively about how to better connect our digital and physical places, and the PNT framework sets out a clear way of thinking of how we can strengthen that.”

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