US Defense is working on a reliable decentralized navigation system

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Darpa, the US military’s research facility, is working on location determination that doesn’t rely on outside sources. The idea is that army units could still navigate in areas where GPS is not available.

According to Darpa – who was responsible for GPS, but also, for example, for the research that led to the Internet – GPS has proven to be a success, but its dependence is also a vulnerability. In some areas, the reception of GPS signals may be disrupted or simply not possible. Darpa is working on new ways of determining location for those situations.

These new ways are ‘radically different’ from existing location determination, says Darpa. For example, the new location determination should rely on self-calibrating gyroscopes, accelerometers and other equipment that measure where someone is with high precision, without depending on external signals. Also, the new localization could take advantage of wireless signals in the environment, such as television signals, radio signals, cell phone towers, the location of satellites and possibly even lightning.

In this way, army units should also be able to navigate in places where no GPS signal is available. For that matter, cell towers for mobile telephony have been used for some time to roughly determine a location. The new technology could be used in particular in the military; the question is whether Darpa plans to ever roll out the technology to consumers, as has happened with GPS.

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