eLoran is back, thanks to Kim Jong-un?

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

24 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Fortunately, U.S. expertise on eLoran did not go away while the government diddled around. In fact, a lot of it seems to have accumulated at a company called UrsaNav. Check http://goo.gl/NX59gz and http://goo.gl/wzwa1z

  2. John - gCaptain says:

    This is arguably the best news all year!

  3. Nat says:

    Ben, great news about e-Loran, not holding my breath but promising, lots of fishermen on the coast of Maine set their plotters to display loran strings as they still set gear along those lines.
    I spent a little time looking at the chart of the future videos and it struck me that many of the features they are showing, perspective views, integration of overhead views (sat) and look ahead views are already pretty standard in the plotters of many electronic manufacturers? Spending hard won research grant money on these seems a bit of a waste, as it seems that the private sector is filling in pretty well.

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Holy cow, drone cargo ships: http://goo.gl/2SbUeJ
    Now there’s a good reason for resilient electronic navigation (and sorry about all those jobs Capt John ;-(
    PS Nat, you have a valid point, I suspect, but there’s a lot more going on at CCOM: http://ccom.unh.edu/

  5. Wally Moran says:

    As always Ben, you’re on top of what’s important. An interesting development, it will be interesting to see how it works out. Thanks for an interesting read.

  6. Josh says:

    How will existing Loran equipment work with eLoran?

  7. Barry Lenoble says:

    Seems like a complete waste of money.
    -Who is going to manufacture the eLoran gear? I just don’t see Raymarine, Navico, Garmin, etc. making new gear for this.
    -Who is going to rush out and buy an eLoran plotter? Am I now supposed to buy, learn, and maintain TWO navigation systems?
    -The government can’t complete simple study for 40 mil, but we’re supposed to believe they can implement a complete new eLoran system for 40 mil?
    -Loran was turned on 2010 and the response from USERS was ‘yawn’

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Sitex and CrossRate ( http://goo.gl/Go35qi were already building consumer level eLoran receivers when the U.S. dropped out in 2010, and the CrossRate assets are apparently now part of UrsaNav.
    eLoran is not a separate nav system and it’s not like Loran C. The receivers typically listen to both GPS and eLoran signals, can improve on GPS accuracy during normal conditions, can also provide heading when stationary, and of course can fail over to all eLoran positioning if there is a GPS failure.
    eLoran also has enough bandwidth to carry other data and, maybe more important, is better for timing than GPS where a good sky view isn’t always available. That’s why organization like the RNT Foundation think that eLoran can be built out inexpensively in the U.S. with cooperation from the private sector. Good white paper here: http://rntfnd.org/what-we-do/#n2
    There’s relatively little eLoran in operation so far (in the UK) but more is coming there and elsewhere. So eLoran receivers these days are pretty high end like this:
    Or even just for timing, like this:
    I doubt that the likes of even Navico and Furuno — both with interests in commercial marine — will think much about eLoran until there’s more momentum (and obviously U.S. involvement would help). But if and whey they do get involved it may not be terribly expensive and certainly not hard to use.

  9. mark says:

    As I understand it the UK Maritime agency were more than a little miffed when the US decided to discontinue Loran but it seems they were intent on going ahead with eLoran anyhow without the US involvement. My guess is there will be some sighs of relief from the other side of the pond if the US does indeed get back into the Loran game.

  10. Ben, I think the eLoran system works very much like the Loran-C system, in that precision geolocation relies on TDs, though they use the built-in data stream to identify multiple transmitters simultaneously with the use of multi-channel receivers, a la GPS. I don’t know why an old Loran-C receiver wouldn’t work, as long as the new transmitter chains were properly entered into it’s database.
    The “heading while stationary” capability appears to be based on a double-loop antenna, which would certainly work, though the accuracy when far from the transmitter (or in an area of radio reflections) might be low – just like the low-frequency beacon system used to work, in fact (before my time in boating, how about you?..:-)
    The docs on the reelektronika pages haven’t been updated since 2008, so I’m not sure it’s really a current product. It also appears to be a part of a system intended for short-range harbor approach applications (certainly a critical need in some areas).

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Right, Hartley, but I don’t recall Loran C receivers that integrated with GPS, and I doubt there are many left anyway, or at least installed.

  12. No, I’m fairly sure pretty much all of the Loran-C receivers were designed and built long before GPS became truly available (and reasonably priced). I also seem to recall that GPS accuracy (even with SA on) was an order of magnitude better than Loran, though Loran’s repeatability was excellent (which is why many fishermen liked it so much).

  13. Anonymous says:

    I would just point to the British, they decided from the get go that an alternative to GPS was required, and put in eLoran (see the link below). They used a PPP model and the system in already being installed.
    We need to remember any eLoran will be there for emergencies and I’d not expect mainstream manufacturers (Garmin, Raymarine, etc.) to make consumer units, but I would expect many small outfits to do so as noted above.
    Hopefully the US will get back on the band wagon and provide real protection for navigation (civilian and military) like the UK has done.

  14. I did a bit of searching, and found the eLoran definition/standard here: http://www.loran.org/ILAArchive/eLoran%20Definition%20Document/eLoran%20Definition%20Document-1.0.pdf
    It strikes me in reading it that the accuracy provided by eLoran (or any other similar system) is directly proportional to the distance from the transmitter chain. For precision guidance at a harbor entrance with a nearby chain, this works well – for finding your way whilst gunkholing far from the chain, you may find it seriously inferior to GPS (just as the old Loran-C system did).
    One of the advantages touted for eLoran is it’s ability to work indoors and in urban canyons – definitely a weak point of GPS systems – though they don’t address the problem of devices that radiate low-frequency RF noise (something that those of us who operate MF/HF are very aware of!)
    At any rate, if economically-viable receivers aren’t available, it seems pretty meaningless to me — which is why the UK and Korean systems are good news – there may finally be an incentive to produce such receivers – and consequently, the capability of integrating the eLoran data into our nav systems.

  15. Renewed interest leaves me feeling vindicated for the blog at the accompanying URL, plus the links therein. Although it’s hard to show any effect for my efforts, I’m glad to be among the huge throng advocating retention of backup capability.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Well the UK are certainly pushing ahead with eLoran.

  17. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    eLoran! It took a while but the U.S. government is now seeking public comments:
    Site to post online comments about need for eLoran here:
    And further good news about U.S. Army also showing interest in eLoran here:

  18. Sparky says:

    The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, the U.S. Coast Guard, and two technology companies have agreed to begin testing eLORAN technology in the United States as a complement to GPS.

  19. SteveD says:

    I read this: http://www.insidegnss.com/node/4431 about how the Newark airport was disrupted by a _trucker_ with a GPS jammer. Then I Googled “gps jammers” and was shocked to learn that for a a couple of hundred bucks anyone can buy one. GPS technology, because of its extremely low power, is extremely vulnerable!

  20. kent says:

    Just read the new headlines for eLoran. Not a shipping or fishing type, but interested because of the type of work I do. Did a study in 2009, and came to the conclusion that the only way to have a solid backup against the Chinese blowing up satellites, or cyber attacks, or other types of attacks, the best backup was analog be it cathode ray tubes or going back to basic navigations tools like the sextant, compass and the clock…which does not help with ships passing in the night.

  21. Howard says:

    Jamming GPS signals affects navigation, computer networks, cellular systens and first responder radios just to name a few. Add in AIS spoofing to really wrap yourself up.
    I have read that Russia has an estimated 20,000 GPS jammers deployed to thwart misslle attacks.
    Tin foil is the next hot stock!

  22. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I just got asked at talk about eLoran and recent GPS issues on a radio show called Boat Talk, which streams on the Internet and later gets made into a podcast. It’s a great show anyway:

  23. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Is it possible gps spoofing is one of the factors at play with the recent collisions of two of our Aegis destroyers? Either spoofing commercial vessel, or the destroyer?
    There are more than a couple of navies that would like to see fewer US Aegis Destroyers on the seas. North Korea makes the top of the list.
    It takes several of these fine ships to protect all our allies and us from a North Korea launch.

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