Global positioning technology has changed the way we think about navigation. It’s in our cars, on our boats and in our backpacks and golf bags. It’s even on our smart phones. There’s an app for that.
But what happens when a GPS-enabled device can’t “see” the satellites and download the data to make its calculations? That’s not usually a problem, because commercial applications use techniques such as map correlation or cell-tower triangulation to avoid service interruptions. This is why your car’s GPS continues to work fine, even when you’re driving through a tunnel.
It’s a different story on the battlefield, where accurate map data may not be available and there are no cell phone towers. Even in the most adverse of conditions, field commanders need to be able to track their soldiers, canines and vehicles whether GPS signals are available or not due to jamming, interference of blockage. Success of the mission may depend upon it. Lives may depend upon it.
It’s called the GNSS Denied Surface Navigator (GDSN). It uses a proven Honeywell micro-electromechanical Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and Doppler radar sensors to pinpoint the location of soldiers, vehicles or canines within 1 percent of distance traveled. That means it can be accurate to within 1 meter at a distance of 100 meters.
The GDSN effort actually evolved from two programs: Honeywell’s work on the Geospatial Location Accountability and Navigation System for Emergency Responders (GLANSER), which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We were part of a successful demonstration of GLANSER concepts. Going farther back, similar technology was also used in our TUNS program – a navigation system designed for underwater Special Forces divers.
The GDSN is a product concept that can be applied to humans, dogs, or vehicle applications. Personal applications include military and emergency responders. Vehicle applications target the lower cost/light armored vehicle and agriculture and mining domain, while the dog applications can include K-9 units searching for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) inside of culverts or similar.
For the personal application, the GDSN is accurate even when its wearer makes nonstandard motions like crawling, running, or even loitering. Such motions typically cause similar devices to lose accuracy. The GDSN can be configured with an IMU that matches the mission of its user. A system for a vehicle may require higher levels of performance that one intended to dismounted soldiers or dogs, which can get by with lower-cost IMUs.
The GDSN is just one example of how Honeywell employees around the world are working to develop technologies that help the armed forces achieve their national defense missions and keep our warfighters safe. Click here to learn more about our activities.