BAE Systems has unveiled a new positioning system which it says will track locations even when GPS signals are unavailable.
Known as Navigation via Signals of Opportunity (NAVSOP), the advanced positioning system is able to calculate its position by making using of existing transmissions including wi-fi, TV, radio and mobile phone signals.
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 potential applications of this technology are already generating huge excitement in both civilian and military circles,” said Dr Ramsey Faragher, a Principal Scientist from BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre.
Dr Faragher 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.
“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,” he added.
Military platforms commonly use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to find their position and navigate, however the satellite signal that GPS relies upon is specific, relatively weak and vulnerable to disruption.
BAE Systems said NAVSOP can learn from signals that are initially unidentified to build an ever more accurate and reliable fix on its location, and that even the signals from GPS jammers can be exploited by the device to aid navigation under certain conditions.
As 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.
Other benefits of NAVSOP are that it can be integrated into existing positioning devices, and it has the 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.
BAE Systems said NAVSOP has a wide range of potential military applications, 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.
“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,” said James Baker, managing director at BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre.
“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.”
Civilian 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.