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. This creates a potential challenge in instance where an intended target is equipped with high-powered jammers or if the GPS constellation is compromised.

Micro-Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Gyroscope for Warfighters NavigationUSA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (Micro-PNT) program seeks to overcome these potential challenges by developing technologies for self-contained, chip-scale inertial navigation and precision guidance. Size, weight, and power are key concerns in the overall system design of guided munitions. Breakthroughs in micro fabrication techniques allow development of a single package containing all the necessary devices incorporated into a small and low-power timing and inertial measurement unit. On-chip calibration would allow for constant internal error correction to reduce drift and thereby enable more accurate devices. Trending away from ultralow drift sensors to a self-calibration approach will allow revolutionary breakthroughs in technology for positioning, navigation, and timing.

The Micro-PNT program recently developed a Micro-Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Gyroscope that uses the spin of atomic nuclei to measure rotation. This provides the ability to achieve navigation-grade performance with a two orders-of-magnitude reduction in size, weight, and power from state-of-the-art navigation grade gyroscopes currently used in inertial measurement units. This will allow micro-nuclear magnetic resonance gyros to be used in systems for personal navigation, navigation in GPS-denied areas, and on micro-UAVs.

The Micro-Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Gyroscope uses gyroscopic spin of nuclear particles in a magnetic field to determine orientation. This gyro has no moving parts and is not sensitive to acceleration and vibration. Others, such as silicon-based MEMS gyros, are much more susceptible to vibration, which keeps them from meeting performance expectations.