Aug 31 2006
I have to disagree with Michelle Malkin and other who are worried that GPS Receivers are a threat to anyone. They rely on the fact that terrorists were looking into GPS receivers. The fact the terrorists thought these devices could help them only shows how little technical understanding they had of the devices. As a NASA engineer who deals with GPS receivers used to fly satellites in earth’s orbit I hopefully can clear this up.
First off, GPS receivers are radios that recieve signals – they do not transmit. They are therefore less dangerous than a cell phone in that respect. GPS receivers listen to signals from satellites in earth’s orbits, noting the time it takes the signals to reach the receiver from four satellites so the reciever’s position and velocity can be computed. So it will tell you were you are. So did graphics on the planes for a while.
Knowing where you are is not going to give you much help in targetting a spot on the ground (which is what I assume some people are worried about). GPS receivers need to be tied into the avionics of the airplane (and are already) in order to fly an airplane to a specific point. If the terrorists can reach the cockpit and avionics they don’t need their own GPS receiver. And the GPS receiver in coach can do nothing to the avionics.
I agree the current restrictions are difficult, but C4 in the shape of a lipstick, from enough passengers, is a true and real threat to an airplane. Such is the world we live in. Think how much worse this would be if we could not monitor terrorists overseas and their financial transactions!