Re: Backup? We don't need no steenkin' backup!
WW2 Technology? Bloody Lazy Journalists (inc The Register)
I'm slightly irritated by the description as being "WW 2 Technology" that seems to have attached itself to eLORAN. It's anything but WW2 technology. Such a description is similar to saying that digital TV is based on the technology of Logie Baird.
If it comes to that, GPS can also be described as having been based on WW2 technology; it's just yet another way of determining position by measuring distances USING A RADIO SIGNAL from transmitters whose positions are known. That's a perfect description of eLORAN, LORAN-C, GEE, X-GERAT, Y-GERAT, OBOE, JAY, or any other radio based navigation system. With GPS the only conceptual difference is that the transmitters are in space. Even the idea of putting up a satellite to broadcast a radio signal also originated in WW2 in the mind of an RAF officer call Arthur C. Clarke. [Okay, so he thought about geo-stationary satellites, but he set the theme for all the ideas that followed.]
Drop the Bias, El Reg, and Think
The Register, no doubt spurred on by that retired and possibly out-of-date navigator Lewis Page, seems to be biased against eLORAN. That may be because LP thinks that it is inaccuracte.
However it seems to have had no difficulty in achieving 5m accuracy in limited trials (see this). Without differential corrections it seems to get to 6.8m (see this presentation, page 37. Also the nature of eLORAN is such that the more tranmitters you build the more accurate it becomes (unlike LORAN-C), lessening the need for differential eLORAN. A widespread deployment would be useful for almost all purposes, with differential eLORAN put in only where it mattered.
Incidently, LORAN-C is almost certainly something that Lewis Page has used and been irritated by. It would certainly irritate me. However I wonder if he's ever actually ever used an eLORAN receiver? By all accounts it's no different to using plain old vanilla GPS. In fact the whole essence of eLORAN is to make it as simple to use as GPS.
I find that lack of imagination inside El Reg surprising. As Gray says above it is cheap and effective, and it uses is a digital radio system (for its data channel) of a sort that normally gets a bunch of technologists like The Register excited. They like GPS, WiFi, Freeview, DVB-S, Bluetooth: what's not to like about eLORAN?
(They'd also like Digital Radio Mondiale [DRM - an unfortunate acronym] too if they'd ever heard of it. DRM is what DAB should have been).
I think the reason why they don't like it is because they have no imagination as to what eLORAN could become. So how about they try this on for size? It would be pretty simple to build a chip scale eLORAN receiver in the same way we currently build chip scale GPS receivers. If we had one of those, you could put on in every mobile phone, sat nav, train, mobile phone base station. That is, everything that uses GPS could be capable of also using eLORAN with a minimum of additional hardware. Also a chip scale eLORAN receiver would probably use a lot less power than a GPS receiver (there's less maths to do). Surely that's something to like?
Come on El Reg, Give it Some Backing
I think that it's quite interesting that it's the authorities in the maritime world that are pushing eLORAN. No doubt that's why Lewis Page gets hot under the collar about it. However the likes of the GLA, US Coast Guard, Trinity House, etc. all have centuries long cultures of ensuring that the navigational aids they provide to mariners are there, are working, and are working well. It's no surprise that they feel that GPS dependency is a dangerous thing.
I'm sure that Lewis Page (I don't know him) was an able and dutiful navigator, but that's a rarity in the maritime world these days; some ships can't even miss a wreck despite radio warning, guard ships, bouys and lights. If the commercial maritime world is hell bent on being automated all the way to the harbour entrance then the maritime authorities will ineviablty make sure that the technology behind it is backed up.
However there's plenty of other users of GPS who would be mortified if their GPS stopped working, not least every single smartphone user. The Register should be expressing an air of gratitude towards the likes of the GLA for giving us all the prospect of a decent backup that we could all use in a way wholly compatible with today's technology.
Disclaimer: I have no connection to any organisation with an interest in eLORAN or navigation.