Updated March 4 at 10:40 am Eastern Time with comments from HawkEye 360 CEO John Serafini.
SAN FRANCISCO – GPS radio frequency interference can signal impending military activity.
HawkEye 360 proved that point in a March 4 news release on GPS interference in and around Ukraine over the last four months. Prior to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the Herndon, Virginia-based geospatial analytics company noted continual and increasing GPS interference near Ukraine.
“This is a modern war, with the Russians leveraging the latest in electronic warfare technologies,” HawkEye 360 CEO John Serafini told SpaceNews by email. “This is representative of the tactics that Russian troops are deploying to degrade the effectiveness of space-based assets, such as the United States Global Positioning System. GPS jamming is one facet that we are seeing evidence through the use of our signal detection constellation and processing capabilities.”
HawkEye 360’s satellite constellation began to collect GPS interference signals last fall and “quickly recognizing it as a useful signal to monitor,” Serafini said. “We continue to collect that signal and other data across Eastern Europe, as it has emerged as a critical indicator of human activity.”
HawkEye 360 operates a constellation of satellites to monitor radio frequency signals and pinpoint their location. The firm demonstrated its ability to detect and monitor GPS interference last year and now sells related products.
Shortly before the Russian invasion began, HawkEye 360 analysts detected GPS interference north of Chernobyl, “demonstrating the integration of electronic warfare tactics into Russian military operation to further degrade Ukraine’s ability for self-defense,” according to the HawkEye 360 news release.
In November, HawkEye 360 also noted GPS interference near the border between pro-Ukrainian and Russian-backed forces in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. With publicly available information, the company confirmed that the operation of unpiloted aircraft in the region was disrupted by the interference.
GPS interference is not always deliberate. It can be caused accidentally by communications signals operating close to GPS frequency bands. The world’s growing reliance on GPS also has prompted military forces and drug cartels to invest in equipment to jam or spoof GPS signals and for the U.S. government to look for backup sources of reliable position, navigation and timing data.
“Whether unintentional or deliberate, interference that prevents people, vehicles, ships and planes from determining accurate locations can be devastating to government and commercial activities alike,” Serafini said in a statement. “Since HawkEye 360 can monitor hundreds of millions of square kilometers daily, we are able to notify clients when and where GPS interference occurs, so they can respond quickly to mitigate the impacts.”