Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Technology News

DARPA Develops Non-GPS Navigation Chip 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-life-just-isn't-worth-living-otherwise dept.
Zothecula writes "The Global Positioning System (GPS) has proved a boon for those with a bad sense of direction, but the satellite-based system isn't without its shortcomings. Something as simple as going indoors or entering a tunnel can render the system useless. That might be inconvenient for civilians, but it's potentially disastrous to military users, for whom the system was originally built. DARPA is addressing such concerns with the development of a self-sufficient navigation system that can aid navigation when GPS is temporarily unavailable."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

DARPA Develops Non-GPS Navigation Chip

Comments Filter:
  • Bullet with GPS? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by roman_mir (125474)

    âoeBoth the structural layer of the sensors and the integrated package are made of silica,â said Andrei Shkel, DARPA program manager. âoeThe hardness and the high-performance material properties of silica make it the material of choice for integrating all of these devices into a miniature package. The resulting TIMU is small enough and should be robust enough for applications (when GPS is unavailable or limited for a short period of time) such as personnel tracking, handheld navigation, small diameter munitions and small airborne platforms

    -
    well, now they will have their self aiming bullets and self propelling, self aiming, manoeuvring grenades.

    I say bullets and grenades, because why else would you care to track indoors, it's not a missile or a big bomb that will go there, a big bomb will just take your entire 'indoors' and make it 'outdoors'. Bullets and self propelled grenades on the other hand...

    At least it's nice to know that at some point some of this may end up in civilian robotics, otherwise it's just terrible. You thought you could

    • I say bullets and grenades, because why else would you care to track indoors

      The bullet would have to be terribly slow and pretty big in order for it to be maneuverable indoors and still have enough space to hold the necessary equipment to be able to make such sharp turns. A normal-sized bullet would be completely impossible to maneuver at the speeds they're conventionally fired at. Besides, it'd be pointless to waste all that money on making these magical bullets when you could just instead make a small UAV capable of maneuvering indoors and arm it with a conventional gun.

      Also, you

    • by dsvick (987919)

      I say bullets and grenades, because why else would you care to track indoors

      Because the days of pitched battles across huge areas are falling behind. The modern battle field is getting more and more urban (that would be indoors), and where it isn't urban, it is often underground or inside caves

      ... now we'll have crazy smart bullets to take care of the terrorists, that's right, the terrorists in their caves ... They really don't like having to give orders to actual people, do they, knowing that people may not always take the orders if they disagree with them.

      Actually, the point of doing this would be to save American lives and not needlessly endanger them. I'm sure they aren't very worried about people disobeying orders

  • by MLBs (2637825) on Friday April 12, 2013 @01:52PM (#43433999)
    Embedded car GPS systems are linked to the car speed data, and when entering a long tunnel, will continue to move the position correctly.
    For this limited scenario, it appears to the user as if the GPS was active all along.
    • by nazsco (695026)

      yeah, didn't see how this is "new". but i'm sure they will get all the patents and billionaire grants.

      • by msauve (701917)
        It's not new. A very quick Google produced this [gpsmagazine.com], from 6 years ago:

        Dead Reckoning technology allows a GPS to continue tracking your position on the map even when little or no signal is available, such as when driving through a tunnel or in dense urban environments, and is one of the few benefits of an integrated in-car GPS navigation system over a portable GPS. California-based GPS chip manufacturer, SiRF, is announcing SiRFDiRect technology that delivers the same in-car DR capabilities previously available

    • by rubycodez (864176) on Friday April 12, 2013 @01:59PM (#43434087)

      nothing new about gyroscopes and accelerometers in a package, even an integrated circuit one.....this might be smaller or perhaps more accurate than some I've seen over the DECADES. but definitely no new tech or ideas here.

      • nothing new about gyroscopes and accelerometers in a package, even an integrated circuit one.....this might be smaller or perhaps more accurate than some I've seen over the DECADES. but definitely no new tech or ideas here.

        yeah.. the first autopilots worked on those gyro+accel principles.

    • by 4wdloop (1031398)

      And why one would need to navigate in a tunnel? (Other then how deep one's in...).

      Certainly more applications are possible as I'd expect it will have much higher sampling rates and precision than GPS and hence can be use in control applications more than in navigation.

      • And why one would need to navigate in a tunnel? (Other then how deep one's in...).

        Certainly more applications are possible as I'd expect it will have much higher sampling rates and precision than GPS and hence can be use in control applications more than in navigation.

        Troops with colorful berets (green, red, black, etc) navigating through a sewer system, needing to know what manhole to get out.
        Or navigating quickly through a large building. Urban combat is combat too
        Or simply knowing *where* you are when you leave the tunnel without having to wait two minutes for acquisition. Well, you might know where you are, but the nav system of your car needs to know too.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      So what we have here is a ground implementation of an aviation INS [wikipedia.org] (with data linkages to various sensors, such as wheel speed).

      Not exactly new. What would be new is getting a decent level of accuracy in something smaller than this [wikipedia.org].

    • Embedded car GPS systems are linked to the car speed data, and when entering a long tunnel, will continue to move the position correctly.
      For this limited scenario, it appears to the user as if the GPS was active all along.

      Yes, but that's just software, blindly dead-reckoning from your GPS implied speed going into the tunnel, and it's map of where the tunnel goes. And generally they give up even after a minute or so, because the programmers accept it'll be wildly inaccurate by then.

      This a a chip, with 3 gyros and 3 accelerometers. Which means it can tell when you change speed and direction. And will be reasonably accurate for much longer.

      Nothing particularly new. Just military spec one in a tiny package. But more than you get

      • and the oscillation overthruster didn't even kick in :-) It was the new tunnel that replaces Devil's Slide Rd. south of San Francisco, and my GPS didn't have a map update for the recently-opened tunnel, so it showed me driving right through the mountain.

    • by Antarell (930241)

      They might want to talk to TomTom as well. A couple of years back they started putting accelerometers in their high end GPS's for this reason. I haven't been in the market for a while so they might all have them now.

  • if you are indoors you probably know where you are
    if you go into a tunnel, you will come out and get the signal again. and its not like you need to navitage inside a tunnel.

    this is probably to defeat jamming. GPS signals are low power. Lightsquared showed that it won't take too much to jam them.
    kind of hard to launch cruise missiles into an enemy nation if they set up GPS jammers within their borders

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      if you are indoors you probably know where you are

      Go to an average mall nowadays and ask yourself it that's true. ;-)

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday April 12, 2013 @02:12PM (#43434261)

      if you are indoors you probably know where you are

      Says the man who never travels. Try out your theory in an airport or major mall. Heck, I would love indoor navigation for some medical complexes.

      • by treeves (963993)

        I've used Google Maps on my phone to find the cleaning supplies in Home Depot.
        They actually have the aisles labeled on the map and I found the brooms.
        When you can't find someone with an orange apron, it's a great help!

    • by LordNightwalker (256873) on Friday April 12, 2013 @02:18PM (#43434311)

      if you go into a tunnel, you will come out and get the signal again. and its not like you need to navitage inside a tunnel.

      Not all tunnels have only one entry and exit point. I already missed an exit in the tunnels under Brussels on a couple of occasions. And even if all tunnels were simple one-pipe affairs... What if you need to make a turn shortly after the tunnel, and your GPS takes too long to get a fix so it still has you at the tunnel's entrance when you blissfully sail past your turn?

      I'm not saying we couldn't cope without these improvements, as indeed in the past we managed to do just fine without GPS. But there's room for useful improvement nonetheless.

      • by alen (225700)

        in the USA we have A-GPS. the cell towers send out a GPS signal which is a lot faster than the US Air Force one

        • by amjohns (29330)

          Umm, that's not at all how A-GPS works.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assisted_GPS [wikipedia.org]

          A-GPS works by providing an estimated position and time to the GPS reveiver, along with ephemerides (orbital position/parameters) of the satellites. Together, that the search space of which satellitest to look for, estimates of signal doppler, and estimated position. So you get a faster initial position fix, ie cold-start. Once your GPS has accurate time, position, and lock on multiple satellites, A-GPS provides no more benef

      • You are not always in a car when this thing will be most useful. How about when your combat team is inside the corridors of a building?
    • if you are indoors you probably know where you are

      Let me introduce you to the Great White North:

      PATH is downtown Toronto's underground walkway linking 28 kilometres of shopping, services and entertainment.

      PATH facts:

      According to Guinness World Records, PATH is the largest underground shopping complex with 29 km (18 miles) of shopping arcades. It has 371,600 sq. metres (4 million sq. ft) of retail space. In fact, the retail space connected to PATH rivals the West Edmonton Mall in size.

      The approximate 1,200 shops and services, such as photocopy shops and shoe repairs, found in PATH, employ about 5,000 people. Once a year, businesses in PATH host the world's largest underground sidewalk sale.

      More than 50 buildings/office towers are connected through PATH. Twenty parking garages, five subway stations, two major department stores, six major hotels, and a railway terminal are also accessible through PATH. It also provides links to some of Toronto's major tourist and entertainment attractions such as: the Hockey Hall of Fame, Roy Thomson Hall, Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, and the CN Tower. City Hall and Metro Hall are also connected through PATH.

      There are more than 125 grade level access points and 60 decision points where a pedestrian has to decide between turning left or right, or continuing straight on. The average size of a connecting link is 20 metres (66 ft.) long by 6 metres (20 ft.) wide.

      Signage includes a symbol for people with disabilities whenever there is a flight of stairs ahead.

      PATH Facts [toronto.ca]

      • There's a respectably large underground complex in Crystal City, on the south side of Washington DC, though it's not quite Toronto scale. A subway station, a mall with food court, entrances to office buildings, bottom floors of a couple of hotels. I had some business trips where entered the subway at National Airport (briefly above ground) and didn't come out of the tunnels again until I left town. There's an elevator in the complex that tells you what floor you're on which was confused one day (telling

        • by westlake (615356)

          There's a respectably large underground complex in Crystal City, on the south side of Washington DC, though it's not quite Toronto scale

          There are many other examples though few on the scale of Toronto or Montreal. Underground city [wikipedia.org]

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      if you go into a tunnel, you will come out and get the signal again.

      Evidently you haven't seen some tunnels around the world. In Vienna there's a tunnel you can enter near the middle of the city where some of the lanes are marked with a sign saying you're leaving the city-state. There's several other lanes directing you to completely different countries and this underground tunnel will spit you out in all sorts of places. How do you know where you should be?

      Or here in Brisbane they've just joined two tunnels (Airport Link and Clem7) together in an area where you're given th

  • Not disastrous (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 12, 2013 @01:57PM (#43434061) Journal
    It wouldn't be disastrous for military applications, because military navigators are all trained on how to navigate without GPS. And they practice it. Also, does anyone lose their way going into a tunnel? Maybe a mining complex or caves or something....

    It works by have six-axis, extremely sensitive, gyroscopes and accelerometers. Thus it can extrapolate position within a margin of error, hopefully long enough to get back in range of GPS.
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      It wouldn't be disastrous for military applications, because military navigators are all trained on how to navigate without GPS

      Tell that to the operators of a certain drone that landed in Iran and see how far you get.

    • by alen (225700)

      try driving across an enemy country with crappy roads and see how far you get without navigation

      • see how far you get without navigation

        Without navigation? Of course you'll get lost. Without GPS? Boats do it all the time on the ocean, without any roads.

    • military navigators are all trained on how to navigate without GPS

      I'm sure their concern is with autonomous drone navigation. Perhaps like the one that Iran captured sometime last year.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Yes. This thing is an inertial navigation system, which have existed since the 40s and have been conveniently small for twenty or thirty years, but all packed into a nice little chip, perfect for drones, small missiles and/or lost motorists.

        It's just some accelerometers and gyroscopes and some software. You could make one with a smartphone app if you wanted to, although it's probably less accurate. Hm... a search on the app store doesn't turn one up immediately. Might be interesting to play with.

        • by LeBleu (15782)
          The standard accelerometers in smartphones are not accurate enough for inertial navigation. You get a very high rate of drift. My guess would be the innovative part of this that isn't clearly explained in the article is just that they got better accuracy than previously achieved in a chip sized unit.
  • by pavon (30274) on Friday April 12, 2013 @01:58PM (#43434075)

    What the article is describing (an IMU) have been around forever (since before GPS), and pretty much any system that uses GPS for navigation has one to supplement the GPS. What is new here is the size; a full IMU on a single chip the size of your pinky finger nail. Pretty cool considering that not too long ago these used to comprise of multiple separate physical devices (gyrometer x3, accellerometer x3, magnetometer), but have been getting progressively smaller over the years. MEMs has come a long way.

    • by storkus (179708)

      Mod parent up: the story here is the extreme miniaturization taking place, where separate units or even a rack full of equipment can now be made into a single chip the size of an existing GPS/GLONASS receiver by itself!

      But wait, there's more: remember the the atomic clock on a chip that DARPA wanted? I think we now know what they really wanted it for, as you can't implement this kind of indoor inertial navigation (with errors in inches/centimeters) without one.

      Oh, and for you tin-hat folks, here's another:

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Sir, target appears to be spinning round and round in the laundry room."

      • by suutar (1860506)
        at this point I pretty much assume ubiquitous surveillance. My only gripe is that I can't see the surveillance of the authorities as easily as they can see the surveillance of me.
      • But wait, there's more: remember the the atomic clock on a chip that DARPA wanted? I think we now know what they really wanted it for, as you can't implement this kind of indoor inertial navigation (with errors in inches/centimeters) without one.

        Such a clock is useful for all manner of other things too... notably crypto and frequency hopping.

    • by jovius (974690)

      The DARPA device is most certainly an improvement, but consumer IMU's are rather small nowadays too - for instance this one: http://www.pololu.com/catalog/product/1268 [pololu.com] (just ordered one)

    • by russotto (537200)

      Pretty cool considering that not too long ago these used to comprise of multiple separate physical devices (gyrometer x3, accellerometer x3, magnetometer), but have been getting progressively smaller over the years.

      It's hardly something DARPA needs to be involved with. We who are better at buying crap for our R/C helicopters than flying the things have been able to purchase the equivalent commercially for some time now.

  • Inertial navigation systems have been around for a long time - certainly predating GPS. Commercial aircraft fly with them (to be independent). They are small enough to be added to small drones - though they are not "chip-scale". Precise, robust ones are very expensive, and perhaps addressing the price is one of their goals, though the blurb doesn't state that. They also need to be re-calibrated regularly (ever seen exact position information at locations where aircraft park?), but again, I don't see how
  • Horrible summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by MasseKid (1294554) on Friday April 12, 2013 @02:09PM (#43434233)
    The story here is they made a really small INU & timing module. AHRS/IMU/INU (among other acronyms) have been around for a very long time. This is simply a very, very, small one, that is probably cheaper to produce than exsiting MEMS systems. Of course, it won't have the accuracy of the larger systems, but that's part of the trade offs.
  • So when can I get these at digikey?

  • who are working on different solutions to indoor navigation too (IPS) [wikipedia.org]

    One of them is IndoorAtlas [indooratlas.com] who are working on using disruption of earth's geomagnetic field from buildings for navigation and the other one is the turku based company Walkbase [walkbase.com] who are using wifi for IPS.

    It may not be the same but there are a bunch of companies around the world working on indoor navigation without the need for GPS in general
  • by sillivalley (411349) <{ten.tsacmoc} {ta} {yellavillis}> on Friday April 12, 2013 @02:28PM (#43434403)
    As others have posted, intertial nav platforms have been around for decades -- in military aircraft, and then in commercial aircraft.

    The break throughs are not only in getting the platform sensors, the gyros, accelerometers, and magnetometers, onto a single chip, but also in being able to provide the computer horsepower to do the Kalman filtering to integrate all these sensors to come out with a nav/position solution, in a few cubic centimeters of processed sand, and for a few Watts.

    It's not just the sensors, it's the processing as well. The sensors just throw data at you (data with all sorts of errors); the Kalman filter lets you bring everything together for your nav/position solution. As a prof long ago said it, "Kalman filtering -- how to stop worrying and learn to love matrix inversion."
    • Check out Invensense (http://www.invensense.com). They have been making single-chip motion sensor/processors for years, and their products look to be smaller than what was pictured in the OA. Maybe the newness is in the particular manufacturing/packaging process.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday April 12, 2013 @02:35PM (#43434469) Homepage

    One major application for this is terminal guidance for munitions, like the Joint Direct Attack Munition and surface-to-ground missiles like the Hellfire. Those need an IMU so they can hit targets with GPS jammers. They get an initial position from the aircraft, which has a better IMU and upward-looking antennas which can probably get GPS despite ground jammers. All the small IMU has to do is keep a good position and heading for about a minute.

    As this gets smaller, it becomes usable on more munitions, such as mortar rounds. Eventually, most indirect fire ammo will have this.

  • hard to remember that far back, but I think we called 'em "maps" and you could roll them up or fold them and carry a lot of them in a small space. no electricity, no radio, no gigabits, and they worked everywhere. if DARPA would like to send be a hundred pounds of $100 bills, I would take some time to consult on this in my spare time.

  • Computational Orienteering Map Processing Assist Simulation Service

    or

    Compass for short.

  • Nothing new to see here. Move along, velocity unchanged.
    --
    You don't need a PC to be a dog on the internet anymore.

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright

Working...