• Embraer's E170 was one of the aircraft Honeywell used in alternative navigation testing. (Embraer)
    Embraer's E170 was one of the aircraft Honeywell used in alternative navigation testing. (Embraer)

Honeywell Aerospace has been conducting tests on alternative navigation systems for environments where GPS has been blocked, interrupted or otherwise unavailable.

The company has reported that customers are frequently finding GPS is not available and has successfully conducted testing using Leonardo AW 139 helicopters and Embraer E170 regional jets.

Honeywell is exploring several navigation techniques using sensors such as cameras, star trackers, radars and radios to augment and or aid inertial navigation systems (INS).

"Our customers are seeing an increase in both intentional and unintentional navigational disruptions, including jamming for GNSS-based navigation,” said Matt Picchetti, vice president and general manager, Navigation and Sensors, Honeywell Aerospace.

“There hasn’t been a single set of solutions that meet all our customers’ operational needs, so we decided to create one. Our modular and scalable alternative navigation technologies are setting a new benchmark in terms of reliability and performance in GNSS-denied environments compared with what is available in aviation today.”

Honeywell has reported on the success rate of three alternative navigation systems: vision-aided, celestial aided and magnetic anomaly-aided.

Vision-aided achieved "GPS-like performance" on both the E170 and AW139 platforms during GPS-denied conditions. The technology showed 67% improvement in GPS-denied performance compared with previous tests. The system uses a live camera feed and compares it with maps to provide a passive, highly-accurate absolute position.

Celestial-aided navigation achieved an accuracy of 25 metres when installed on the E170. This is thought to be the first time a navigation solution based on Resident Space Objects (RSOs) has been demonstrated on an airborne platform, as most other system rely only on star-based navigation. The system uses a star tracker to observe stars and RSOs to provide a passive navigation solution in GPS-denied conditions.

Honeywell conducted what it says is the world’s first real-time magnetic anomaly-aided navigation on an airborne platform. Almost all previous magnetic tests have been done in special environments to mitigate electromagnetic noise. Honeywell successfully demonstrated this technology, which measures earth’s magnetic strength and compares it with magnetic maps to accurately identify the position of the aircraft.

Honeywell also conducted trials with INS using a GPDDome anti-jamming system, which resulted in significant improvement in performance under GPS jamming conditions.

The first prototype systems are expected to start testing before the end of this year with the first customer deliveries expected in 2023.

Russia has been accused of jamming the GPS signals in and around the Ukraine, which has impacting civil aviation as well, but the European Aviation Safety Agency has reported increased instances of jamming in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East.

US defence agencies are reportedly concerned that China has been jamming or manipulating GPS signals in the Asia-Pacific region.

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