17 Aug 2011
GPS systems play a critical role in helping the warfighter gain vital situational awareness and navigational capabilities during a conflict. Though one of the biggest challenges is that GPS systems have become more susceptible to jamming. To counter this, DARPA’s Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (Micro-PNT) program is creating a navigation and timing unit that will fit on a microchip. The new solution would enhance personal navigation because these new devices would continue tracking location even when GPS signals are not available.
As Defense Systems recently highlighted, current state-of-the-art systems are about the size of an apple and Mico-PNT aims to change all of this. Here’s more from that article:
To achieve GPS-free navigation, Micro-PNT has brought several DARPA programs together to provide a single-chip system. These subsidiary programs are at various levels of development, but the most mature part of the program is the Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC), which was itself part of an intensive DARPA development effort and is now a commercially available product. Atomic clocks are used to keep very exact time. Prior to the CSAC program, the smallest devices were about the size of a microwave oven. CSAC successfully reduced this to the size of a sugar cube. If Micro-PNT can make atomic clocks even smaller, they will begin to be installed on a variety of electronics, such as handheld computers and smart phones.
As many missiles rely on GPS navigation, DARPA intends to use this new innovation to help missiles better find their targets as well. In addition, the new system would allow soldiers to access key data inside buildings and caves – giving them a leg up when it comes to acquiring real-time data.