Before I launch into my post I need to make a couple of disclaimers up front. I am currently the CEO of CrossRate Technology which is a company that is developing and selling integrated GPS/eLoran receivers. Prior to running this company I was in the Coast Guard and my last duty station was as the Configuration Manager for the North American Loran System.
It appears to me that there are two basic questions being asked in this thread.
1) Why are we even discussing the continuation of Loran when GPS rocks?
2) If an integrated receiver is such a good idea then where can I buy one?
Answer to question 1.
A brief recap of the recent history of the Loran-C system.
In the 1990’s the system was scheduled to be shut down in 2000. In the late ‘90’s some people crawled out of the woodwork and said, “are you sure you want to do that?” A moment of pause occurred and a GPS Vulnerability Study was undertaken by the Volpe Transportation Center. The result of the study is that GPS is vulnerable and that the government should provide a backup system.
Following this report a slew of studies were undertaken by groups that included the government, academic and industry representatives to determine if Loran could provide a backup to GPS. The two primary studies were the Loran Accuracy Performance Panel and the Loran Integrity Performance Panel. These two studies determined that Loran, if upgraded to eLoran, can act as a backup to GPS.
Most recently the Department of Transportation commissioned the Loran Independent Assessment Team to compile the decades of research and make a recommendation to the Secretary. Dr. Brad Parkinson, the father of GPS, was brought into chair the panel. The panel itself was made up of GPS all stars with no link back to the Loran system. The unanimous recommendation from this panel was the long term operation of eLoran as the backup to GPS.
It is also important to broaden the user base discussion. GPS is used to provide precise time to many systems including the power delivery system, phone systems, T.V. systems, the internet, 911 communications, Nasdaq, ATM machines, and more. The reason I bring this up is because we are talking about a critical national infrastructure decision that has broad implications across several user groups.
The bottom line is that GPS position and time information is critical to many safety of life applications and is embedded throughout our economy. A disruption to that information, whether intentional or unintentional, could have a significant impact. Because of this it is imperative for the government to protect itself by providing a backup system. eLoran is by far the best system to backup GPS. In repeated studies it has been shown to not only meet the technical requirements, but has also been shown to be cost effective.
In terms of dollars we are talking about a system that costs the U.S. approximately $30M a year to run. This works out to Roughly a dime per person. If the government were to embrace all of the cost cutting technology and remotely operate the stations the cost would to somewhere between $10M and $15M annually. Compare this cost to the ~$700M that it costs to run GPS annually.
If you are interested in the issue there are a couple of sites you might like to check out.
(go to the news and resources section and you can find background info.)
CrossRate integrated GPS/eLoran receivers should be on the market in January 2008.