Inertial Navigation System — A Perfect Match for GNSS in Vehicle Positioning

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satellite Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) doesn’t work alone to provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning. It requires other signals to pinpoint a location of a user’s receiver around the world. While many systems are still in development, the inertial navigation system (INS) has proven to be the perfect match for GNSS.

GNSS Reception’s Limitations

Uber, Google, and other companies have been striving to achieve practical autonomous navigation to make their self-driving cars safe for people and things on the road. These companies, however, hit a roadblock when it comes to uninterrupted positioning. They found that GNSS reception has its limits, notably in places such as tunnels, parking lots, and roads beside tall buildings.

Fortunately, INS has capabilities that meet the challenges of autonomous navigation that GNSS alone can’t address.

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How INS Complements GNSS

Inertial measurement units are derived from multi-axis combinations of precision measurements of gyroscopes, accelerometers, and magnetometers. These devices utilize algorithms to determine location, direction, and position of a vehicle. Specifically, gyroscopes measure the angular velocity, accelerometers take note of the overall acceleration, and magnetometers determine the direction of the magnetic field. With these measurement capabilities, INS helps vehicles navigate in GNSS-challenged environments.

In addition, micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS) techniques have reduced the size, power consumption, and costs of INS systems. Inertial simulation has become accessible as well, helping researchers and companies test and strengthen their navigation solutions. As such, INS systems can now be used in more applications, including the positioning and routing of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Now that INS has emerged as the perfect complement to GNSS, the public should expect more products or solutions that combine GNSS with INS. According to one study, the INS market is projected to grow significantly from 2017 to 2023, with an annual growth rate of 8.76 percent. Plus, of course, when it comes to autonomous navigation, the combination of GNSS and INS brings the thought of having safe and road-worthy self-driving cars a step closer to reality.

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