When we think of alternatives to GPS we tend to come with the more fanciful ideas of mapping microchips embedded into human heads, or those Terminator-style eye ball displays that Arnold Schwarzenegger used to wear in the films. However, there might actually be an alternative to GPS that is somewhat closer to reality than that which is being developed by BAE Systems who are a British defense and aerospace agency.
This week BAE announced that they were working on an alternative to GPS which they say is resistant to jamming (which might come as a relief to the US scientists operating the military drones) and can also work in areas where traditionally is has been hard to receive a GPS signal. Everybody knows how frustrating GPS can sometimes be, and it does tend to fall down when used indoors – although there is currently some work also being done on indoor location positioning (read our interview here with Dr Bruce Krulwich).
NAVSOP Alternative to GPS
With that in mind BAE reckon they are on the cusp of a solution with their NAVSOP technology. NAVSOP stands for Navigation via Signals of Opportunity – sounds complicated doesn’t it, and in truth it is. In simple terms it works by using signals from a variety of existing sources in indoor to determine location, which wi-fi networks, cell phone masts, as well as TV and radio transmitters.
The NAVSOP system will be able to learn from signals that are initially unidentified in order to create an accurate and reliable fix on its location. A very cool aspect to the BAE NAVSOP solution would be the ability to take signals from GPS jammers and then exploit these to actually aid navigation rather than hinder it – which would definitely interest many who would want to develop it for military applications.
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
Dr Faragher who is one of the team at BAE behind the project was quoted as saying:
“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.”
BAE are yet to announce when the technology will become available, and whether it will be open to the public like the global positioning satellite network is, but do say that they have had a lot of interest in this GPS alternative.
If you want to know more about BAE’s alternative to GPS then make sure you read the original news article which was posted on the Engineering and Technology Magazine website on the 29th of June 2012. Their article goes into much more detail and includes some quotes from the scientists who are working on this interesting project. You might also find the BAE Systems website useful as they have a section dedicated to NAVSOP.