Trends in GPS/PNT User Equipment

“A Guide to Trends in GPS/PNT User Equipment”

Presentation to the 11th Meeting of the PNT Advisory Board

The following is an abbreviated transcript of Don Jewell’s briefing to the PNT Advisory Board at its meeting on Tuesday, May 7. The slides from Jewell’s briefing and the other briefings to the board are available at pnt.gov under the heading 11th PNTAB meeting.


Good morning, everyone.

A special thanks to Jim Miller, Dr. James Schlesinger and Dr. Bradford Parkinson for inviting me to speak this morning on the future trends of PNT user equipment, particularly as it pertains to warfighters and first responders — certainly a subject I have been passionate about for only…oh, let’s say about 35 years.

Why GPS World?

Ever since the agenda for the PNT Advisory Board meeting appeared online, I have been receiving emails and phone calls asking why I was speaking not as one of the IDA (Institute for Defense Analysis) subject-matter experts on GPS but as the Contributing Editor for Defense for GPS World. Frankly, the answer is simple. Wearing the GPS World hat gives me the freedom to say what needs to be said today, whereas the IDA think tank attribution and publication rules, which are absolutely necessary for an FFRDC (Federally Funded Research and Development Center) to operate effectively and efficiently, would unduly restrict my comments.

Plus, for 21 years GPS World magazine has been the publisher of the definitive GPS user equipment survey for global users. It’s free for everyone to use, and it covers PNT receiver information from 55 global manufacturers with data on all aspects of 502 PNT receivers. And it is a great boon for me personally, as I only receive on average about 50+ emails or letters per month from users simply wanting to know what GPS/PNT receiver they should purchase. It is wonderful to be able to point them to the GPS World Receiver Survey.

Also wearing my GPS World hat, I can easily refer to the several thousand warfighter and first responder inputs we have received over the last 10 years — generally expressing what they would like to see in a GPS/PNT receiver or sometimes specifically the Perfect Handheld PNT Transceiver (PHPNTT), which I first wrote about six years ago (and most recently in December) in GPS World magazine.

Top 10 Warfighter – First Responder Requirements for the PHPNTT

Adhering strictly to the latest fad in government briefing formats, it is now time for me to BLUF, or give you the Bottom Line Up Front. However, being a journalist, I also have to hold something back for the end. So here are the top 10 PHPNTT requirements, in order of preference, as submitted over the last 10 years by thousands of warfighters and first responders:

  • Mil-Spec rugged – solid state drive – no moving parts
  • Friendly, intuitive, familiar interface – easy to use
  • Multi-GNSS – All signals available – space and terrestrial
    • Wi-Fi, eLORAN, space/terrestrial augmentations, networks, communications
  • Wireless, portable, seamlessly networkable
  • SWAP friendly, long battery life, with solar charger
  • Real-time 3D map data, NGA, Google, satellite imagery
  • Not a stand-alone PNT device
    • Embedded in a computer with multiple communication capabilities – one must be secure
  • Must be able to download, store and utilize new applications
  • Software-defined and expandable
  • Act as a sensor with automatic reporting

All these “user requirements” are closely related to what our warfighters and first responders don’t like about the current GPS MUE or Global Positioning System Military User Equipment. I state that specifically because, make no mistake about it, the current MUE is strictly GPS-based. However, the current MUE only receives two of the many signals available today on the GPS SVs, and certainly not any of the other numerous PNT (position, navigation and timing) signals also available, which of course is the crux of the issue for user equipment of the future.

Most of the top 10 requirements, and there were more than 50 requirements identifiable in all, are self-explanatory, and time does not permit me to cover them all in detail. But bear with me for a couple of quick explanations. Certainly the rugged requirement is readily understandable, and there are numerous manufacturers around the globe today that make excellent Mil-Spec rugged devices. However, the one I am most familiar with and have been