MMAE Distinguised Alumni Seminar: Mathieu Joerger on ‘Resilient Positioning, Navigation, and Timing for Safe Transportation’

Distinguished Alumnus Mathieu Joerger, assistant professor at Virginia Tech.The Department of Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering welcomes the 2024 Distinguished Alumnus Mathieu Joerger, assistant professor at Virginia Tech, who will give a presentation on “Resilient Positioning, Navigation, and Timing for Safe Transportation.” This seminar is open to the public and will take place on Friday, March 22, from 3:30–4:30 p.m. in room 104 (auditorium) of the John T. Rettaliata Engineering Center. Departmental awards will immediately follow the seminar.


Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS, the generic term for GPS and its international counterparts) has enabled a wide variety of civilian and military positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) operations. As our reliance on GNSS has grown, so has our vulnerability to GNSS interference. Inadvertent emissions at GNSS frequencies have occurred. Truck drivers, motorists, and criminals have been illegally jamming GNSS to avoid being tracked by employers and authorities. Even more concerning: spoofing attacks that mislead receivers to compute false PNT solutions have recently affected commercial aircraft. Costly collateral damages have included day-long runway shutdowns at major airports including Newark, Denver, and Dallas-Fort Worth.

In this two-part presentation, we leverage networks of connected GNSS receivers, including airborne and ground receivers, to detect GNSS radio frequency interference (RFI). First, we use air traffic surveillance data from Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) to analyze a state-wide GNSS interference that occurred in Texas in October 2022. Second, we develop an automated, self-calibrating RFI detector to process nine months of data from 900 receivers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS). This data reveals that RFI occurrences vary with road traffic density: we exploit traffic patterns to predict RFI and catch a jammer “in the wild,” on a highway near Colorado Springs, Colorado. In the process, we discover a widespread source of RFI that have caused unexplained false alerts in RFI monitors worldwide.


Mathieu Joerger is an assistant professor at Virginia Tech. He obtained a master’s in mechatronics from INSA Strasbourg, France (2002) and his M.S. (2002) and Ph.D. (2009) in Aerospace Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology where he spent the 15 happiest years of his professional career. He received the ION Bradford Parkinson Award in 2009, the ION Early Achievement Award in 2014, and the ION Burka Award and Thurlow Award in 2023. He is the senior editor on navigation of IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems. He is also the associate director of the USDOT University Transportation Center (UTC) Center for Assured and Resilient Navigation for Advanced TransportatION Systems (CARNATIONS).