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.
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.
I'm struck by how similar this story is to the fantastic book Longitude by Dava Sobel. She chronicles the work of master clock maker John Harrison who developed accurate marine chronometers in the early 1700s that permitted seafaring vessels to determine accurately their east or west distance from the Prime Meridian. Monarchs, astronomers, and elite contemporaries declared the solution was best approached by using precise astronomical observations, complex mathematics, and look-up tables that took hours to calculate. Much like the several "constellations" of current GPS satellites, a chip-scale atomic clock coupled with inertial sensors would be able to provide precise location values when the sky is blocked, obscured by noise, or jammed. Great stuff...
Interesting parallel, william. I worked on some DARPA projects in the past. Many of them do not lead directly to an implementable system. On the other hand I often see parts of these projects show up in various areas years later.
Elizabeth, what I am wondering is, does DARPA feel they are close on this? I appreciate the problem they are trying to resolve. Is there anything close to what they are looking for on the atomic inertial sensor? It seems from the article that the issue is using these sensors effectively together in the target environment.
Great point, @naperlou. I wrote about atomic-scale atomic clocks back in 2006. I'm guessing this DARPA project is concentrating on their integration with inertial sensors to form a single chip which is capable of determining exact location using internal sensors and precise time only. Quite an ambitious, but wide-application proposition...
If it's indeed true that this technology would be less expensive than GPS, would it make sense for autonomous vehicles to employ it someday? Right now, I think the plan is to use gyroscope-based dead-reckoning systems in autonomous vehicles for those moments when GPS is unavailable.
About 2 years ago there was an article on the NIST web-site about research into atomic scale multi-axis accelerometers. Since then I've seen several other references to this technology. It would seem that the DARPA request for proposal would be the next logical step. Hopefully, unlike Harrison in Search for Longitude, there will be an open-minded scientific community ready to embrace this technology.
I thought laser ring gyros were the latest. It seems there is no end to the innovations that are possible as we miniaturize the technologies we can apply to a given problem.
I was surprised to see how cheap these 6 degree of freedom sensors were when I saw the quadcopters and arduino boards working together. Being able to accurately measure the velocity in and acceleration in 3-D allows the quadcopters, or any other device so equipped to perform very interesting tasks.
I was lead to believe that GPS with a fixed reference could be accurate to within 6 inches or so. Using only satellites I think it is artifically constrained to a meter or so by military consideratins which may or may not still apply.
Once this positioning data can be determined to about 6 inches I think the cars can benefit in terms of auto driving vehicles. When this can be put on a chip and mass produced it probably will cost a few nickels to add to your current poistioning solution if the military allows it to be used commercially.
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
Using Siemens NX software, a team of engineering students from the University of Michigan built an electric vehicle and raced in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. One of those students blogged for Design News throughout the race.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.