DARPA develops non-GPS navigation chip

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has proved a boon for those with a bad sense of direction, but the satellite-based system isn’t without its shortcomings. Something as simple as going indoors or entering a tunnel can render the system useless. That might be inconvenient for civilians, but it's potentially disastrous for military users for whom the system was originally built. DARPA is addressing such concerns with the development of a self-sufficient navigation system that can aid navigation when GPS is temporarily unavailable.

We’ve looked at numerous approaches using various mixes of technology that are designed to step up to the plate when GPS falls short. Navatar and Casio’s EX-H20G camera rely on a compass, accelerometers and pre-loaded maps, Smartsense and IndoorAtlas track a user’s movement through the Earth’s magnetic field, while UnLoc detects “invisible landmarks” to locate users.

The TIMU prototype contains a highly-accurate master clock and a six-axis inertial measurement unit consisting of three gyroscopes and three accelerometers. These give the device the ability to gather precise orientation, acceleration and time information to track a user’s position from A to B when contact with GPS satellites is temporarily lost.

The sensors are packed onto a single chip in six microfabricated layers that are each just 50 microns thick, which is approximately the thickness of a human hair. At just 10 cubic millimeters in size, the whole package is smaller than a U.S. penny.

Source: gizmag.comAdded: 16 April 2013