The New Year celebrations in Shanghai this year were particularly spectacular and included a show with 2,000 drones.
Illuminated drones formed a variety of images, including colored shapes, a man running across the sky, and numbers that counted down the seconds to midnight.
Shanghai, in fact much of China’s coastline, has seen repeated GPS jamming and spoofing patterns over the past year.
And previous drone shows in China were spoiled by interference with navigation signals. One incident was reported by Chinese media in May 2018 and another in October of the same year.
Given this history and the success of this year’s show, many have speculated that the Chinese government must have made a conscious decision to avoid interference activities for the duration of the celebration.
Others have suggested that GPS jammer may still be in progress, but the drones are using the Chinese BeiDou satellite navigation system.
It is possible to interfere with GPS without affecting BeiDou. This would be a riskier option, however, as the two systems are operating on nearby frequencies and some “overflow” interference could occur.
China recently announced an increased focus on ensuring that PNT information is available to its population from multiple sources in a “comprehensive” architecture. Such an approach ensures that regardless of the interference from satellite signals, users have the critical location and time information they need.
Given this leadership’s attention, it is likely that the need for unhindered navigation was well considered ahead of the recent Shanghai drone exhibition.
Also, we probably won’t see many future reports of drone shows in China being disrupted by navigation system malfunction.