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Navigation without GPS, thanks to DARPA

Posted: 15 Apr 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:timing and inertial measurement unit  navigation  GPS  prototype  chip 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of the United States Department of Defense, is developing a timing and inertial measurement unit (TIMU) that contains everything needed to aid navigation when GPS is temporarily unavailable.

At the University of Michigan, DARPA researchers said they have developed a prototype chip that could lead to navigation even if the GPS fails. Smaller than the size of a penny, the single chip TIMU prototype contains a six axis IMU (three gyroscopes and three accelerometers) and integrates a “highly-accurate” master clock into a single miniature system.

The TIMU is only 10 cubic mm in size. Each of the six microfabricated layers of the TIMU is only 50 microns thick, approximately the thickness of a human hair. The chip’s sensors are used to measure orientation and acceleration over time.

“The chip integrates breakthrough devices (clocks, gyroscopes and accelerometers), materials and designs from DARPA’s Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation and Timing (Micro-PNT) programme,” said DARPA.

“Both the structural layer of the sensors and the integrated package are made of silica,” said Andrei Shkel, DARPA programme manager. “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.”

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