The deliverable of the project -- the IMU or C-SCAN itself -- will combine inertial sensors with dissimilar physics but complementary characteristics, such as short startup times and stable performance, according to DARPA. The system developed also should be compact in size and have a high resolution of motion detection.
DARPA's work on C-SCAN will support a larger agency project called the Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation and Timing (Micro-PNT) to create a range of similar microsystems that will serve as alternatives to GPS technology.
Design of the system requires new research into two main technical concepts on which DARPA is seeking proposals. The first is the miniaturization of atomic sensors to demonstrate the feasibility of implementing an ultra-stable, atomic inertial reference for orientation and position on the microscale, according to the agency. The other is the co-fabrication of atomic sensors with solid-state inertial sensors, for which the agency is seeking combinational algorithms and architectures that can compensate for deficiencies in microscale inertial sensors, DARPA said.
By combining the two types of sensors, DARPA hopes to achieve superior performance with respect to bandwidth, resolution, noise characteristics, long-term stability, and "time to act," or the time a device requires to warm up before reaching optimal readout characteristics with respect to accuracy, precision, and stability.