Northrop Grumman has secured a contract for the development of a miniaturised navigation-grade inertial system for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) chip-scale combinatorial atomic navigator (C-SCAN) programme.

Awarded by the US Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), the $648,000 contract requires the company to develop an integrated navigation system by combining acoustic wave micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and nuclear-magnetic resonance (NMR) gyro technologies.

Specifically, the company will mature the NMR gyro, shrink the package’s existing size and develop a precision optical accelerometer.

"The microsystem has the potential to significantly reduce the size, weight, power requirement and cost of precision navigation systems."

Northrop Grumman Advanced Navigation Systems business unit vice-president Charles Volk said the microsystem has the potential to significantly reduce the size, weight, power requirement and cost of precision navigation systems.

"Additionally, the system will reduce dependence on GPS (global positioning system) and other external signals, ensuring uncompromised navigation and guidance," Volk said.

The integrated navigation system aims to combine inertial sensors with dissimilar but complementary physics properties, in a bid to offer an affordable solution in GPS-challenged environments.

The cost-plus-fixed-fee contract includes a one-year base performance period and multiple options, which, if exercised, would see the deal rise to $13.4m.

Administered by DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office, the C-SCAN programme is part of the micro-technology for positioning, navigation and timing (Micro-PNT) programme, which seeks to develop micro-technology for self-contained, chip-scale inertial navigation and precision guidance, eliminating reliance on GPS technology.

The advanced navigation sensor chips could be used for missions involving targeting, positioning, guidance, munitions, navigation and smart weapons.

Defence Technology