Global-positioning system uses cameras instead of satellites

1 min read

Australian researchers have developed a global-positioning system (GPS) based not on satellites, but camera systems and database algorithms.

Dr Michael Milford from Queensland University of Technology’s Science and Engineering Faculty claims his research would make navigating a far cheaper and simpler task.

‘At the moment you need three satellites in order to get a decent GPS signal and even then it can take a minute or more to get a lock on your location,’ he said.

’There are some places geographically, where you just can’t get satellite signals and even in big cities we have issues with signals being scrambled because of tall buildings or losing them altogether in tunnels.’

The approach to visual navigation algorithms, which has been dubbed SeqSLAM (Sequence Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping), uses local best match and sequence recognition components to lock in locations. SeqSLAM uses the assumption that you are already in a specific location and tests that assumption over and over again.

Milford said the ‘revolution’ of visual-based navigation came about when Google took photos of almost every street in the world for their Street View project.

However, the challenge was making those streets recognisable in a variety of different conditions and to differentiate between streets that were visually similar.

The research, which utilises low-resolution cameras, was inspired by the navigational patterns of small mammals such as rats.

‘My core background is based on how small mammals manage incredible feats of navigation despite their eyesight being quite poor,’ he said.

The research has been funded for three years by an Australian Research Council $375,000 (£254,000) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award fellowship.