Next Generation Navigation Systems Avoid Satellites

There are only a few global navigation satellite systems in the world: the American GPS, the Russian GLONASS, the European Galileo and the Chinese Beidou. However, all of them are unreliable by default, require confirmation of data from several satellites and tend to disappear. It is quite possible to survive while driving in an ordinary car, but absolutely unacceptable for the autonomous transport of the future.

For example, the military compensates for inaccuracies with personal inertial navigation systems, compasses, accelerometers, etc. In the civilian sphere, in conditions of difficult terrain or dense buildings, the inability to receive a signal forces engineers to get out with the help of improvised means. Robots are equipped with cameras for orientation in space, sonars, laser lidars and other sensors. But the complication of the design is a dead-end path.

A team from Zach Cassas at the University of California decided to develop an alternative navigation principle. It is based on the analysis of secondary radio signals. Any Wi-Fi router, smartphone, payment terminal, satellite dish, cell tower, on-board computer of a car or ship emits signals. The task is to capture and analyze them.

To achieve this, the team conducted a theoretical analysis of existing secondary signals. A specialized hardware and software system has also been developed that can extract time and location data from secondary signals and convert them into navigation information.

The next step is to test the new navigation system on drones and ground-based unmanned vehicles. Going forward, this technology could become a cornerstone for navigating the mass of autonomous robotic systems of the future.