BAE Systems locates opportunity to replace GPS

Great Bad­dow, Unit­ed King­dom; BAE Sys­tems has unveiled its lat­est research on an advanced posi­tion­ing sys­tem that exploits exist­ing trans­mis­sions such as Wi-Fi, TV, radio and mobile phone sig­nals, to cal­cu­late the user’s loca­tion to with­in a few metres.

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Mil­i­tary plat­forms com­mon­ly use Glob­al Posi­tion­ing Sys­tems (GPS) to find their posi­tion and nav­i­gate. GPS rely upon a spe­cif­ic and rel­a­tive­ly weak satel­lite sig­nal that is vul­ner­a­ble to dis­rup­tion. Known as Nav­i­ga­tion via Sig­nals of Oppor­tu­ni­ty (NAVSOP), BAE Sys­tems’ new sys­tem is able to cal­cu­late its posi­tion by mak­ing use of the hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent sig­nals that are all around us.

By exploit­ing such a wide range of sig­nals, NAVSOP is resis­tant to hos­tile inter­fer­ence such as jam­ming (a par­tic­u­lar weak­ness of GPS) and spoof­ing, where a bogus sig­nal tricks a device into misiden­ti­fy­ing its loca­tion. The new sys­tem can learn from sig­nals that are ini­tial­ly uniden­ti­fied to build an ever more accu­rate and reli­able fix on its loca­tion. Even the sig­nals from GPS jam­mers can be exploit­ed by the device to aid nav­i­ga­tion under cer­tain con­di­tions.

The real beau­ty of NAVSOP is that the infra­struc­ture required to make it work is already in place. There is no need to build cost­ly net­works of trans­mit­ters and the hard­ware behind the sys­tem is already com­mer­cial­ly avail­able. Anoth­er ben­e­fit is that it can be inte­grat­ed into exist­ing posi­tion­ing devices to pro­vide supe­ri­or per­for­mance to GPS.

A major advan­tage of the sys­tem is its abil­i­ty to func­tion in places where GPS is unable to reach, such as dense urban areas and deep inside build­ings. It is also able to work in the most remote parts of the world, such as the Arc­tic, by pick­ing up sig­nals that include Low-Earth-Orbit satel­lites and oth­er civil­ian sig­nals.

From aid­ing sol­diers oper­at­ing in remote or dense urban areas to pro­vid­ing improved secu­ri­ty for Unmanned Aer­i­al Vehi­cles (UAVs), which could face attempts to dis­rupt their guid­ance sys­tems, NAVSOP has a wide range of poten­tial mil­i­tary appli­ca­tions.

Among those pio­neer­ing this area of research is Dr Ram­sey Faragher, a Prin­ci­pal Sci­en­tist from BAE Sys­tems Advanced Tech­nol­o­gy Cen­tre, who recent­ly led a team that received a pres­ti­gious award from the Insti­tute of Nav­i­ga­tion for a ground-break­ing paper on how aspects of the tech­nol­o­gy work indoors.

Dr Faragher said: “The poten­tial appli­ca­tions of this tech­nol­o­gy are already gen­er­at­ing huge excite­ment in both civil­ian and mil­i­tary cir­cles. This research is a great exam­ple of BAE Sys­tems work­ing close­ly with poten­tial cus­tomers to not only improve the per­for­mance of exist­ing tech­nol­o­gy, but also tack­le their weak­ness­es head on and find inno­v­a­tive ways to reduce or elim­i­nate them.”

James Bak­er, Man­ag­ing Direc­tor at BAE Sys­tems Advanced Tech­nol­o­gy Cen­tre, said: “At a time when the need to be inno­v­a­tive and resource­ful is more impor­tant than ever, this capa­bil­i­ty rep­re­sents tru­ly out­side-the-box think­ing by pro­vid­ing a cost effec­tive sys­tem with a wide vari­ety of dif­fer­ent appli­ca­tions. This tech­nol­o­gy is a real game chang­er when it comes to nav­i­ga­tion, which builds upon the rich her­itage that both BAE Sys­tems and the UK have in radio engi­neer­ing.”

This research is gen­er­at­ing inter­est in both defence and civil­ian domains where its uses could include help­ing fire and res­cue ser­vices find their way through smoke filled build­ings and enhanc­ing the safe­ty of lone work­ers and secu­ri­ty staff.

BAE Sys­tems