Sunday, March 18, 2012

DARPA Working on GPS Successor


On Thursday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) published a document outlining current and completed research projects conducted for the U.S. military. Inside the document, which you can download by clicking here, was information on what could be the successor to GPS in the coming years.

If you read this blog at all, then you’re likely aware of how incredibly pervasive and useful GPS has become as well as the potential downfalls of GPS. All it takes is one GPS jammer, which can be purchased online, or the correct conditions to make the signals unusable so it’s no surprise that the government has been working on alternative technologies. 

The main technology that DARPA has been working on is referred to as All Source Positioning and Navigation (ASPN) technology, which uses “signals of opportunity” such as radio, satellites, television and cell towers for real-time tracking and location instead of only relying on GPS signals. The technology could even make use of natural phenomena like lightning and would work inside of buildings, underwater, underground and beneath dense foliage—all places where GPS is not usable.

According to the document, DARPA is also working on self-contained instruments that will better provide PNT navigation including self-calibrating gyroscopes and accelerometers, high-precision clocks and other precision navigational equipment that can track position for long periods without relying on external sources or signals.

“The need to be able to operate effectively in areas where GPS is inaccessible, unreliable or potentially denied by adversaries has created a demand for alternative precision timing and navigation capabilities,” DARPA said in the research document.

As a note, these technologies are not completed—merely something that the government is working on. While I am certain that eventually the technology will outpace GPS as we know it, I don’t think that it will be anytime soon, and the military will no doubt have it years before it makes it to the military sector. Still, it’s interesting to see where the research leads.

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