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  • Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation and Timing (Micro-PNT)

    Warfighters have depended for decades on global positioning satellite (GPS) technology, and have incorporated it into guided munitions and other platforms to meet rigid requirements for guidance and navigation. 

    For decades, Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has been incorporated into vehicles and munitions to meet rigid requirements for guidance and navigation. As a result, a substantial number of DoD systems are dependent on GPS data to provide accurate position, direction of motion, and time information. This dependence creates a critical vulnerability for many DoD systems in situations where the intended targets are either equipped with high-power jammers or the GPS signal is compromised.

    The goal of the Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation and Timing (Micro-PNT) program is to develop technology for self-contained, chip-scale inertial navigation and precision guidance for munitions as well as mounted or dismounted soldiers. Size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP+C) are key concerns in the overall system design of compact navigation systems. Breakthroughs in microfabrication techniques may allow for the development of a single package containing all of the necessary devices (clocks, accelerometers, and gyroscopes) incorporated into a small (8 mm3) low-power (1 W) timing and inertial measurement unit. On-chip calibration should enable periodic internal error correction to reduce drift and thereby enable more accurate devices. Trending away from ultra-low drift sensors towards self-calibrating devices will allow revolutionary breakthroughs in PNT technology.

    In January 2010, DARPA launched a coordinated effort focused on the development of microtechnology specifically addressing the challenges associated with miniaturization of high-precision clocks and inertial instruments. The  Micro-PNT program is comprised of three thrust areas: Clocks, Inertial Sensors,  and Microscale Integration. Each area is made up of various efforts exploring new fabrication techniques, deep integration, and on-chip self-calibration, which go hand-in-hand with the development of “plug-and-test” architectures.

    The developments consider a number of operational scenarios, ranging from dismounted-soldier navigation to navigation, guidance and Control (NG&C) of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), and guided missiles. The micro-PNT initiatives seek to increase the dynamic range of inertial sensors, reduce long-term drift in clocks and inertial sensors, and to develop miniature chips providing position, orientation, and time information. 

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