Can GPS jammers bring down a plane?

I always wondered if we’re putting to much faith in modern technology, but this article trumps all. A New Jersey man wanted to hide his movements from his employer by using a GPS jammer, but he ended up interfering with operations at a busy airport instead. He was tracked down, fired, and faces a fine of almost $32,000.


According to the article this was the device he was using.

OK, the guy was doing something wrong, but there are a few things bothering me.

  1. The range of these devices generally won’t exceed 10 meters. How on earth could this interfere with airport operations?
  2. How did authorities track down such a marginal (and probably fast moving) signal?
  3. If these devices are so dangerous, does that mean that terrorists can bring down planes in the future by buying a truck load of these things?

I’m puzzled. Something doesn’t make sense here. If it does, it might be wise not to put too much trust in these technologies.


10 comments on “Can GPS jammers bring down a plane?

  1. The story I read said he was parked right next to RF engineers trying out some GPS-based tech, so it was pretty bad luck he got caught!

  2. It can’t bring down a plane per say but if one of these devices were onboard it could cause serious interference with Navigational Systems. But really, if the Crew experienced issues with GPS based systems they can go back to navigating via VORs, NDBs and Radar Vectors from ATC. If it caused interference with ILS (Instrument Landing System) equipment it would be more severe but again, in case of failure the Crew would resort to a visual final approach or if in adverse weather conditions they could divert to another airport within limits for a visual approach while their ILS is unreliable.

  3. most likely a cop/rentacop spotted “dangerous looking thingamajiggy” during routine traffic stop/passing the gate, no triangulation involved

  4. I’m doubtful that he will have to pay the fine though unless the FCC convinces the Department of Justice to pursue it .

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