Navigation system based on Wi-Fi and cellular signals

US researchers have developed an accurate and reliable navigation system that make use of existing environmental signals like cellular and Wi-Fi rather than the Global Positioning System (GPS).

The technology could be used as a stand-alone alternative to the GPS or match current GPS-based devices to let highly consistent, reliable, and tamper-proof navigation. It can also be used to develop navigation systems that meet the severe requirements of fully autonomous vehicles, such as driverless cars and unmanned drones, opined the team from University of California, Riverside.

“Our goal is to get autonomous vehicles operate with no human-in-the loop for prolonged periods of time, performing missions such as search, rescue, surveillance, mapping, farming, firefighting, package delivery and transportation,” said Zak Kassas, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Majority of navigation systems in cars and portable electronics use the space-based Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). For precision technologies, like aerospace and missiles, navigation systems typically syndicate GPS with a high-quality on-board Inertial Navigation System (INS).

Inspite of advances in this technology, present GPS/INS systems will not meet the loads of future autonomous vehicles for several reasons. GPS signals alone are very weak and unfeasible in several environments like deep canyons.

“Civilian GPS signals are unencrypted, unauthenticated, and specified in publicly available documents, making them hackable,” the researchers added.

Instead of inserting more internal sensors, Kassas and his team have been developing autonomous vehicles that could hit into hundreds of signals around us at any point in time, like cellular, radio, television, Wi-Fi and other satellite signals.

The system can be used to increase INS data in the event that GPS fails.

The team announced its research at the 2016 Institute of Navigation Global Navigation Satellite System Conference (ION GNSS+), in Portland, Oregon recently.