WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio, 6 May 2013. Navigation and guidance experts at Argon ST Inc. in Fairfax, Va., are building on previous company research to develop a prototype sensor fusion system for land, sea, and airborne applications that can accept inputs from several kinds of navigation sensors so that warfighters can maintain navigation capability with or without Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite navigation.
Argon ST won a $2 million contract for the All Source Positioning and Navigation (ASPN) phase 2 program of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which seeks to develop algorithms and a prototype sensor-fusion system to enable low cost navigation for military users on any operational platform and in any environment, with or without GPS.
Argon ST won a $1.9 million first-phase ASPN contract early last year, and focused on developing navigation algorithms and a navigation software architecture. Also participating in the first phase of the ASPN program was the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.
With the addition of Argon ST, the number of ASPN phase 2 contractors grows to six. SAIC Inc. in McLean, Va., won the initial contract in late January, and other ASPN phase 2 contractors are Vesperix Corp. in Arlington, Va.; SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif.; Systems & Technology Research in Woburn, Mass.; and the Northrop Grumman Corp. Navigation and Maritime Systems Division in Woodland Hills, Calif.
Awarding the latest contract to Argon ST were officials of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on behalf of DARPA. Argon ST specializes in military command, control, communications, computers, combat, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C5ISR) technology.
In the first phase of the ASPN program, Argon ST and Draper Lab showed that an adaptable, plug-and-play capability for navigation systems is achievable. Now the ASPN phase 3 contractors are bringing this technology to the next level.
In the program's second phase researchers will continue algorithm development build a prototype ASPN system for demonstration and evaluation. The companies not only will develop real-time algorithms, but also will field these algorithms on size-, weight-, and power (SWaP)-representative prototype hardware able to accept an arbitrary set of inputs, regardless of native application of the sensors used.
Most current navigation systems rely on a combination of GPS, inertial measurement unit (IMU), and sometimes other navigation sensors to provide accurate positioning and navigation information, DARPA researchers say.
Military navigation systems designers want to improve their systems by combining different sensors, such as laser rangers, cameras, and magnetometers. The problem, however, is today's navigation sensors usually have custom filtering for their specific sensors, and are not readily adaptable to new capabilities and threats.
The ASPN program seeks to develop new navigation sensor fusion technology that can accommodate any combination of sensors in a plug-and-play fashion to create robust positioning and navigation technology in the face of new battlefield conditions and missions, while reducing costs.