Date of Original Version
Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) is part of the critical infrastructure necessary for the safety and efficiency of vessel movements, especially in congested areas such as the North Sea. Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), especially the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), have become the primary PNT sources for maritime operations. The GNSS position is used both for vessel navigation and as the position and timing source for other systems such as Automatic Identification System (AIS).
Unfortunately, GNSS is vulnerable to jamming and interference, intentional or not, which can lead to the loss of positioning information or, even worse, to incorrect positioning information. The user requirement is for dependable PNT information at all times. One potential source of resilient PNT services is Ranging Mode (R-Mode), an alternative PNT concept related to Signals of OPportunity (SoOP) PNT, which uses signals independent of GNSS.
In 2013 the German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration contracted for a feasibility study of R-Mode using medium frequency (MF) Differential GNSS (DGNSS) and very high frequency (VHF) AIS signals as well as those signals in combination and in combination with eLoran. At ION GNSS+ 2014 some of the authors presented the results from that feasibility study and showed the projected performance using the signals individually and in combination. In most of the shipping lanes on the North Sea it appeared that 10m or better performance could be achieved.
Following up on that work, prototypes of a transmitter and receiver for MF-DGNSS R-Mode have been developed. The transmitter was installed in IJmuiden (Netherlands) and the receiver deployed along the Dutch coast to the south of the transmitter for initial on-air testing of the R-Mode concept; both were synchronized to UTC via GPS. While positioning is not possible with only one R-Mode transmitter, the combination of a synchronized transmitter and receiver pair allows for useful testing of the R-Mode concept. Specifically, the receiver could estimate a true range (rather than a pseudorange); hence, the stability of the range with environmental variations (e.g. weather, day/night skywave effects, etc.) can be studied.
To further study skywave effects, the R-Mode modulator was relocated to a more powerful transmitter at Heligoland (Germany) and the receiver moved to a location near the Kiel Canal (Germany). A second receiver was installed at a similar distance from the transmitter to enable simultaneous comparison of two different propagation paths. Later a third receiver was added in order to provide three paths of different lengths.
The original R-Mode feasibility study also examined the number of stations that it would be possible to receive in the North Sea area to ensure there were sufficient stations for positioning. However, it did not look at the converse question; how would a large number of R-Mode signals impact legacy users. As part of the prototype development, very limited experiments were performed to assess the impact of the new signals on legacy DGNSS receivers. Specifically, during the on-air testing mentioned above, a commercial DGNSS receiver was able to accurately demodulate and decode the on-air transmissions from the single prototype R-Mode transmitter; the impact of multiple signals was not examined. A new study, funded by the General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland, has just been initiated to analyze how legacy equipment would respond to multiple R-Mode signals at different frequencies, both in-band and out-of-band.
This paper presents details of the prototype transmitter and receiver and includes statistical analyses of the range estimates recorded to date and the impact of skywave interference at night using data from the German test sites. Additionally, this paper includes preliminary results of the R-Mode signal interference study.
Johnson, G. W., Swaszek, P. F., Hope, M., Grant, A., & Šafář. (2017). Initial Results of MF-DGNSS R-Mode as an Alternative Position Navigation and Timing Service. Paper presented at Precise Time and Time Interval Meeting, Monterey, CA.
Available at: https://www.ion.org/ptti/abstracts.cfm?paperID=4696