Modern Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) are invaluable to today's avionics, but they're often large and expensive. In response, Archangel is developing a novel MEMS inertial sensor, the MEMS Annular Rotating Sensor (MARS™), which will enable extremely accurate and durable IMUs.
Specifically, MARS is a single MEMS sensor that measures five degrees of freedom: triaxial acceleration, roll, and pitch, making MARS a 5-DOF IMU. As the name implies, MARS is based on a spinning rotor that is levitated in vacuum with control hardware electrodynamically centering it in a cavity delineated by control electrodes. By controlling the rotor’s attitude and position, 5-DOF measurements are available and correlated to inertial inputs.
In 2005, Archangel won a competitively-awarded contract from Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA) to develop a micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) implementation of a Navigation Grade Inertial Measurement Gyro (NGIMG). The ultimate objective of NGIMG was the realization of tiny, low-power, rotation rate sensors capable of achieving reliable navigation in small platforms. The mobility of these small platforms such as individual soldiers, unmanned (micro) air vehicles, and even insect-sized robots often places them in positions without GPS, so alternative navigation is crucial.
By harnessing the advantages of micro-scale miniaturization, the MARS program is expected to yield tiny (if not chip-scale) gyroscopes with navigation-grade performance characteristics. Successful completion of this project will enable completely autonomous navigation without any reliance on GPS.
Funding for this sensor was initially received through Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I, II, and III contracts as well as through a DARPA Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) Award. The SBIR Phase I and Phase II contracts were funded by the Missile Defense Agency's SBIR Program and managed by the Naval Sea Systems Command's (NAVSEA) Naval Surface Fire Support Program Office, Code PMS-529. Archangel is continuing to work on MARS using internal funds To date, the system has been demonstrated at DARPA conferences and independently tested at AMRDEC.
When this current phase of research is complete, the performance level will be sufficient for MARS to provide navigation (e.g., latitude and longitude) and weapon aiming (e.g., elevation and azimuth) in GPS-denied environments. More important, d, Archangel will be able to launch the MARS technology as the smallest and most affordable IMU of this caliber.