Defense contractors Polaris Consulting have developed a software system to use visual and radar data to compute a vessel’s position in littoral waters – independent of GPS.
The research was funded by the UK Ministry of Defence’s Centre for Defence Enterprise for use in autonomous applications, allowing self-navigating vehicles to get a fix on their location in coastal areas where an adversary is jamming GPS signals (“GPS denied environments”).
The common option for automated, GPS-free navigation is the inertial guidance system, long used in aerospace and defense applications. However, an inertial system’s estimate is based on dead reckoning from one initial position, and it degrades over time until the next fix. It must be very sensitive in order to deliver an accurate estimated position, and the equipment is expensive; Honeywell’s contract for the U.S. military for installing and servicing its EGI system runs to $500 million.