Navigating UAVs without GPS
by Akros Labs from BAE [via BBC and Engadget]

Military drones rely heavily on GPS for navigation guidance while in the air. But in areas where a signal can't be found, or where someone is using a GPS jammer, a drone will find itself in a troublesome predicament. British defense contractor BAE Systems has come up with a solution to that problem: A positioning system called NAVSOP that uses any wireless signal to find its location.

NAVSOP (Navigation via Signals of Opportunity) doesn't care about the source of the signal. It can exploit any available signal  whether is source from a TV station, various forms of radio transmissions including wi-fi, cellular or even the the GPS jamming signal itself. The part that excites BAE engineers and designers is that the infrastructure is already in place. They don't have to build out a network of transmitters. Another  exciting aspect of this technology is that it can also works indoors, if integrated into consumer (and not just military tools) navigation products and therefore opening a new door to powerful location assistance technologies and services for indoors location based applications. The BBC says that the NAVSOP box requires GPS at first to learn about its surroundings. But over time as it amasses a database of location information, it will become less and less reliant on GPS.

Although, this technology is both promising and exciting is not completely new. Today, mobile telephone manufactures and service providers are using hybrid positioning systems that use a combination of network-based and handset-based technologies for location determination. One example, Assisted GPS (i.e. A-GPS available in most Android and Apple's IOS phones) which can use both GPS and network information to compute location information. The computation of both types of data signals provides more accurate information about the device location. In turn, internet service providers like Google have developed location-aware mobile applications like, Google Latitude, which allow mobile phone user to permit selected users to view their current location.

The NAVSOP is currently a prototype box that can be linked up to whatever is in need of navigation assistance, but BAE believes it can be shrunk down into a dongle-sized package.