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DARPA seeks GPS-less control for MAVs

Technology that allows a nano or micro air vehicle to hover and maintain its position without the aid of GPS is the goal of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The military wants this technology so vehicles can operate in areas where an enemy may have rendered GPS useless. DARPA is asking for avionics that do not use GPS or inertial measurement unit navigation, have a maximum mass of 10g (0.35oz) and a power consumption of one Watt.

The project is called Teleoperate and Hover In Place (TeleHIP) and DARPA wants the avionics to also aid stabilisation in forward flight under various gusting and light conditions.

"The system...should be capable of allowing a hovering aircraft to stay within a 0.5m [1.64ft] sphere [without GPS]," says DARPA. The agency envisages that such a NAV or MAV will be able to fly at up to 5.83kt (10.8km/h) and operate in gusts of up to 4.86kt.

The agency does not want proposals that include long-term sensor development. It wants technology that can rapidly be evaluated and developed into a prototype and prefers to see commercial off-the-shelf components identified. DARPA highlights range finders, inclinometers, gyroscopes, magnometers and optical flow systems as options.

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