Inside GNSS+ Magazine features Kassas’ work on cover

Posted: October 24, 2023

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Zak Kassas and his team had their work featured on the cover of the August 2023 issue of Inside GNSS+ Magazine.

Kassas and his team authored an article titled “A Look at the Stars Navigation with Multi-Constellation LEO Satellite

decorative image

Signals of Opportunity.” The research team has developed an algorithm that can eavesdrop on any signal from a satellite and use it to locate any point on Earth, much like GPS. This is the first time an algorithm was able to exploit signals broadcast by multi-constellation low Earth orbit satellite (LEO) satellites, namely Starlink, OneWeb, Orbcomm and Iridium.

“Having our work featured and shared with so many people throughout this industry is a great honor,” said Kassas. “Our work addresses a critical need for future autonomous vehicles and will benefit scientific inquiry in fields such as remote sensing.”

From transportation to communication systems to the power grid and emergency services, nearly every aspect of modern society relies on positioning, navigation and timing data from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), or GPS, that orbit the Earth. Despite this, because GPS system signals are weak and susceptible to interference, they can often become unreliable in certain places such as indoor environments or in deep urban canyons. In addition, GNSS signals are spoofable, which poses serious security risks in safety-critical applications, such as aviation.

In the long term, such complications could lead to several navigational and cybersecurity issues, especially as most of our current systems rely heavily on GPS. Technologies on the rise, such as autonomous vehicles, are beginning to amplify the limitations of current GNSS systems.

Zak Kassas
Zak Kassas

Experiments for this work were conducted at the ElectroScience Laboratory (ESL). During a stationary experiment to test how the signals worked as an accurate positioning system, researchers set a ground receiver's initial position estimate to the roof of an engineering parking structure at the University of California, Irvine, a spot more than 2,000 away from its actual position: the roof of ESL. Using the satellite constellations to guess where exactly in the country the receiver was, the algorithm was only off by about 5 meters. Then, the researchers tested their system on a ground vehicle, where they navigated the vehicle with signals from the Starlink, OneWeb, Orbcomm and Iridium LEO constellations fused with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) for nearly a kilometer, achieving a position root-mean squared error (RMSE) of less than 10 m and a final error of less than 5 m.

Other co-authors were ESL students Sharbel Kozhaya, Joe Saroufim, Haitham Kanj, and Samer Hayek. The work was supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the Department of Transportation (DOT) under the CARMEN UTC, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This is the third Inside GNSS+ Magazine cover article featuring Kassas’ research in LEO-based navigation, following the December 2021 article “Enter LEO on the GNSS stage: navigation with Starlink satellites” and the August 2019 article “New-age satellite-based navigation – STAN: simultaneous tracking and navigation with LEO satellite signals

Written by Jocelyn Wells, College of Engineering Research Administraton

Categories: ResearchFaculty