Embedded GPS Could be Coming to Smaller and Smaller Systems


2013-01-30 By Brett Davis

Unmanned aircraft the size of hummingbirds could one day sport GPS navigation capability, according to Rockwell Collins, which is developing tiny GPS systems with DARPA.

DARPA’s Dynamics Enabled Frequency Sources (DEFYS) program has created tiny electronic oscillators that Rockwell Collins is testing on GPS radios.

“Never before has a microscale oscillator been able to acquire and track GPS,” says John Borghese, vice president of the Rockwell Collins Advanced Technology Center. “This capability opens a new frontier in embedding GPS in very small items and continues our commitment to provide precision position, navigation and time solutions to newly identified, and yet to be imagined applications.”

The DEFYS work has produced oscillators that are nearly 30 times smaller than the ones used in current GPS receivers. They are 30 times more stable under extreme vibration and consume 320 times less power.

Rockwell Collins says the tiny, frugal oscillators could also find a home in ultra smaller UAS, precision munitions and other systems that could benefit from reduced size, weight and cost.