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  • Compact Ultra-Stable Gyro for Absolute Reference (COUGAR)

    Military and commercial systems are becoming increasingly dependent on the Global Positioning System (GPS) for accurate worldwide navigation. Successfully operating in areas where GPS is actively or passively denied is of great concern to DoD. Major technical challenges to navigation without GPS are the position errors caused by gyro drift that grow with mission time. Highly sensitive, ultra-stable gyroscopes are a critical component for the standalone inertial sensing systems needed to enable precise navigation in GPS-denied environments.  The Compact Ultra-stable Gyroscope for Absolute Reference (COUGAR) program seeks to push the fundamental performance limits of optical gyroscopes to meet these needs. 

    The United States Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) provides unprecedented position and timing fidelity with worldwide coverage to anyone with a compact GPS receiver. Continuing to operate through both active and passive denial of GPS service, however, is of critical interest to the warfighter. Inertial navigation systems have been developed to fill this technology gap but the errors induced by modern gyroscopes can cause unacceptable position error in a matter of minutes.  The Compact Ultra-stable Gyroscope for Absolute Reference (COUGAR) program seeks to push the fundamental performance limits of optical gyroscopes to address this shortfall. 

    The COUGAR program aims to develop a novel resonant fiber optic gyroscope architecture based on hollow-core photonic bandgap fiber technology that combines the advantages of ring laser and interferometric gyroscopes to significantly improve sensitivity (angle random walk less than 1 mirco deg/rt hr) and stability (bias stability less than 1 micro deg/hr). To achieve these goals, the non-linear effects in conventional solid-core optical fiber are unacceptable. Hollow-core photonic bandgap fiber guides the bulk of the optical field in free space, enabling multi-turn resonators with an unprecedented signal-to-noise ratio, while maintaining bias stability. COUGAR aims to culminate with a reference-grade optical gyroscope in a compact, four inch package.

    The final COUGAR gyroscope would be an integral part of a high-precision inertial navigation system for future military systems. Such gyroscope technology would result in fundamental changes to performance versus size metrics, improving GPS-free navigation on small platforms by orders of magnitude.

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