US military developing geolocation system for underground

Mar 11, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

(PhysOrg.com) -- The US military is studying the feasibility of a system that could allow them to accurately navigate in enemy underground tunnels, an environment in which GPS does not work.

US military satellites provide (GPS) signals used by millions of gadgets, including car satellite navigation systems and smartphones, but GPS needs line-of-sight to the satellites, which is only available on the Earth’s surface and not underground. At the same time, the presence of US military and intelligence satellites has driven many people of interest underground, especially since subterranean engineering and tunnel building are becoming less expensive and easier. A deep tunnel system shields a group from spy satellites, and also gives them protection against bomb attacks.

Scientists from the Pentagon agency have noted that very low frequency (VLF) radio signals called “spherics” or “sferics” are generated by lightning strikes and penetrate deep underground, and they are therefore studying the feasibility of a system of underground receivers that could possibly built to detect the signals hundreds of miles away. Receiving signals from lighting strikes in multiple directions, along with minimal information from a surface base station also at a distance, could allow operators to accurately pinpoint their position.

The system is known as Sferics-Based Underground Geolocation (S-BUG) and early studies found that it may be feasible. DARPA is now planning to hold a conference, which will mostly be classified as secret, with technology companies interested in developing the project further. The project will need to verify that sferic signals received on the surface can be correlated with sferics received underground to provide geolocation with enough resolution. The ultimate goal of the S-BUG project is to design a full navigation and tracking system for underground uses.

The project coincides with another DARPA project (Nimbus), which aims to trigger and manipulate artificial .

Explore further: Index ranks Japan Asia's most efficient innovator (Update)

More information: DARPA project: www.darpa.mil/sto/underground/sferic.html

Related Stories

Underground CO2 storage study to begin

Oct 25, 2007

The University of Texas has received a $38 million subcontract to conduct the first U.S. long-term study of underground carbon dioxide storage.

New technology for navigating without GPS

Mar 14, 2005

A new method for navigation at sea, independent of GPS, is being put forward in a dissertation from Linkoping University. Today merchant marine, military, and recreational boat traffic all rely on the global satellite sys ...

Recommended for you

Index ranks Japan Asia's most efficient innovator (Update)

Sep 12, 2014

A new index ranks Japan as the most efficient among Asian countries in turning the building blocks of creativity into tangible innovations that benefit their economies and people while Myanmar, Pakistan and Cambodia are least ...

Making travel quick, safe for cars, bikes, walkers

Sep 10, 2014

Cellphones that warn drivers when people are crossing in front of them. Bicycles and cars that communicate with traffic lights. Sensors in cars that quickly alert other drivers to black ice, potholes or other ...

Tech giants bet on 'smart home' revolution

Sep 10, 2014

It's long been the stuff of science fiction, but tech giants hope the "smart home", where gadgets talk to each other and the fridge orders the milk, will soon become reality.

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bob_Kob
not rated yet Mar 11, 2010
Breaking headlines: Osama Bin Laden killed by US weather control device.
ruckus101
not rated yet Mar 11, 2010
This is so we can find the Iranian nuke plants.
Royale
not rated yet Mar 11, 2010
no, no the iranians were only enriching uranium for power generation. (sarcasm, if it wasn't picked up by you).
PinkElephant
not rated yet Mar 11, 2010
The project coincides with another DARPA project (Nimbus), which aims to trigger and manipulate artificial lightning.
That's pretty freaking stupid. What good is a weapon that only exists in the presence of thunderclouds?

DARPA ought to be looking into generating spherics artificially, instead of waiting for lightning strikes...
NotAsleep
not rated yet Mar 12, 2010
"The system is known as Sferics-Based Underground Geolocation (S-BUG)"

If this is ever issued to the Army, it will immediately get the name "Ass Bug"
NotAsleep
not rated yet Mar 15, 2010
In regards to NIMBUS, I think a primary focus is to PREVENT lightning strikes, contrary to what the article leads one to believe:

https://www.fbo.g..._cview=0

Although I'm sure CAUSING lightning strikes is an obvious off-shoot of that...