Plextek develops advanced optical navigation solution for soldiers


Plextek Consulting has developed a battery-powered, video-based tracking technique to help soldiers track their movements within a GPS-denied environment.

With support from the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory's (dstl) Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE), the company created a flexible tracking system that can either be used on its own or networked with a legacy inertial navigation systems (INS) to yield a highly-accurate solution to navigation in global navigation satellite systems (GNSS)-denied environments.

Plextek Defence and Security director, Nicholas Hill, said the project has resulted in an innovative, advanced defence technology that will address the precise requirements of soldiers operating in a difficult and high-risk environment.

''It's a perfect example of Plextek Consulting's ability to solve technically complex challenges within competitive project timescales and budget constraints,'' Hill said.

"We fund research into novel, high-risk, high-potential-benefit innovations to enable development of cost-effective military capability advantage."

Dstl CDE and supplier engagement head Andy Nicholson said: "Through CDE, we fund research into novel, high-risk, high-potential-benefit innovations to enable development of cost-effective military capability advantage.''

The company's defence group had to overcome the problem of positional errors made by traditional INS with a solution that could achieve a desirable system size, weight, power and cost for deployment as an assistance to a dismounted warfighter.

Plextek had researched several alternative methods and technology prior to development of a solution that combined a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) optical sensor and advanced image processing techniques to form a composite optical navigation system.

The INS comprising gyroscopes and accelerometres are traditionally used to estimate position in absence of GNSS systems, such as GPS, but produce a positional error that drifts by as much as several hundreds of metres per hour from the true position.

Defence Technology