Sight of the navigator

An ESA-sponsored research programme is attempting to make satellite navigation available both outdoors and inside buildings.

The results of the DINGPOS (Demonstrator for Indoor GNSS Positioning) project could mean drivers will one day park their car, unclip their sat-nav device and use it to navigate the walkways of an indoor shopping centre or airport.

The idea, said DINGPOS researcher Manuel Toledo, is to make Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) more seamless.

Toledo, who heads the navigation technologies and applications division within Spanish technology firm GMV, explained that the reception of GNSS signals is severely attenuated by reflections indoors.

’Normal GNSS receivers cannot work in these conditions,’ he said.

The aim of the project is to develop technologies that will receive signals from GPS and the Galileo system indoors.

Drivers could park their car, unclip their satnav and use it to navigate around an airport

The researchers recently unveiled a working prototype that combines a highly sensitive receiver that can detect GNSS signals, with additional positioning methods. These include local Wi-Fi-based positioning and map-matching, which associates the user’s location data with a computer model of the building concerned.

The other method attains position and velocity information from a user with MEMS Inertial Measurement Units, which integrate accelerometers and gyroscopes.

The GNSS signals are then hybridised with these alternative positioning technologies to provide seamless ubiquitous navigation.

The DINGPOS system was tested at the European Navigation Laboratory at ESTEC and the Galileo Test and Development Environment in Germany. The researchers say their current proof-of-concept platforms are too bulky, but new design and processing algorithms would allow a similar system to be integrated into a hand-held device.

The technology will be aimed at emergency services, but commercial uses are also being considered.

Toledo said a DINGPOS system would complement the Galileo system, due for launch after 2013. ’Galileo has built-in signal design features to support the acquisition and tracking of signals in an indoor environment,’ he said.

’If the GNSS was commercially available when Galileo starts operation, Galileo will be received as a universal navigation solution.’