US army seeks new technology to replace GPS

Apr 25, 2013
US Air Force Captain Tyler Rennell (3rd right) explaining to Afghan pilots how to use a GPS instrument at the Kandahar military airbase on October 11, 2009. The US army is working to limit its dependence on GPS by developing the next generation of navigation technology, including a tiny autonomous chip, the director of the Pentagon's research agency said.

The US army is working to limit its dependence on GPS by developing the next generation of navigation technology, including a tiny autonomous chip, the director of the Pentagon's research agency said Wednesday.

DARPA, the research group behind a range of spy tech and which helped invent the Internet, was also the driving force behind the creation of the , director Arati Prabhakar said at a press conference.

"In the 1980s, when started to become widely deployed... it meant carrying an enormous box around on your vehicle," she said.

"Now it's got to the point where it's embedded not just in all our platforms but in many of our weapons," as well as in many civilian devices, she said.

But "sometimes a capability is so powerful that our reliance on it, in itself, becomes a vulnerability," she added.

"I think that's where we are today with GPS."

Among the fears: the could be scrambled by an adversary, as happened recently in South Korea.

Starting in 2010, DARPA has been working on a variety of programs aimed at developing new navigation and positioning technology—at first with the goal of extending their reach to places where satellites don't work, such as underwater.

But now, amid fears of over-reliance on—and possible vulnerabilities with—global positioning satellites, experts are looking to create not just a companion, but an alternative to GPS.

To that end, researchers at DARPA and the University of Michigan have created a new system that works without satellites to determine position, time and direction, all contained within a eight-cubic-millimeter chip.

The holds three , three accelerometers and an , which, together, work as an system.

DARPA envisages using this technology to replace GPS in some contexts, especially in small-caliber ammunition or for monitoring people.

Another approach would use existing signals, such as those generated by broadcast antennas, radios, telephone towers and even lightning to temporarily replace GPS.

Prabhakar emphasized there "will not be a monolithic new solution, it will be a series of technologies to track and fix time and position from external sources."

Explore further: Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Japan eyes building its own GPS system

Jan 05, 2011

Japan is considering launching new satellites to establish its own global positioning system (GPS) in a bid to reduce its reliance on the US navigation network, officials said on Wednesday.

Lockheed Martin powers on the first GPS III satellite

Mar 01, 2013

The Lockheed Martin team developing the U.S. Air Force's next generation Global Positioning System III satellites has turned on power to the system module of the program's first spacecraft, designated G ...

Recommended for you

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

6 hours ago

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

Apr 16, 2014

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

Apr 16, 2014

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Dish Network denies wrongdoing in $2M settlement

Apr 15, 2014

The state attorney general's office says Dish Network Corp. will reimburse Washington state customers about $2 million for what it calls a deceptive surcharge, but the satellite TV provider denies any wrongdoing.

Netflix's Comcast deal improves quality of video

Apr 14, 2014

Netflix's videos are streaming through Comcast's Internet service at their highest speeds in the past 17 months now that Netflix is paying for a more direct connection to Comcast's network.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
not rated yet Apr 25, 2013
Does anyone remember when 3-axis laser-gyros and accelerometers made an Inertial Nav System?
Bob_Kob
not rated yet Apr 25, 2013
Must have to be incredibly accurate. Even the slightest error would magnify over some time.

Unless there was a periodic update?
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2013
Does anyone remember when 3-axis laser-gyros and accelerometers made an Inertial Nav System?

Such guidance systems are used in submarines during deep dives.
Getting that thing miniaturized to a cube with 2mm on a side is pretty nifty trick, though.

For short distance navigation it's fairly accurate. The use of such system for military applications lies more in the immediate battlefield environment - not for long range navigation. Battlefield environments are more likely to have active GPS jamming (or even GPS spoofing) going on. If you rely on GPS guided stuff there it may fail (bet case) - or be guided back to you (worst case).

So this is something they'll use in drones and/or (semi-)guided munitions during operations. Possibly for long range drones/munitions on the last leg of the journey.
trekgeek1
not rated yet Apr 26, 2013
Must have to be incredibly accurate. Even the slightest error would magnify over some time.

Unless there was a periodic update?


Which is kind of the basis for Kalman filtering. You measure a quantity such as position with multiple sensors working off different operating principles. You account for the quality of each sensor's measurements and through extrapolation and correction, determine your measured quantity with greater precision than possible with a single sensor.

I wonder what would happen if the cubes communicated with each other and could, for instance, filter out drift by assuming that all members of the same platoon are moving in the same direction. Or if the response time indicated the absolute distance between cubes accurately, then you could determine if the path of two cubes was diverging or converging. You may be able to get a better heading if you know you must be heading in the same direction. Some great math to be done there!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Apr 26, 2013
I wonder what would happen if the cubes communicated with each other and could, for instance,

It's the old problem of accuracy vs. precision.
Averaging out several sensors with identical characteristics doesn't give you better accuracy. It only (maybe) gives you better precision.

It's like flipping coins. The more coins you flip the more probable it is that you are RELATIVELY close (as a percentage of coins) to the expected average. That's your precision.
But the ABSOLUTE divergence from the average remains uncertain (and is even likely to increase with the number of coins). That's your accuracy.

Another example would be the length of the chinese emperor's nose. Ask many people and you get a very good average (high precision). But since he lived in the forbidden city no one has seen him (no ground truth) therefore your accuracy could be very good or very bad or anywhere in between.

More news stories

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...