DARPA Needs Ultra-Small, Robust Clocks to Maintain GPS-Free Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT)

ARLINGTON, Virginia – US military researchers are asking industry to develop ultra-small, low-power clocks to help military forces maintain precise positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) in case GPS navigation satellites are damaged, destroyed or blocked.

Officials at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., released an agency general announcement (HR001122S0038) for the H6 program on Tuesday.

The DARPA Microsystems Technology Office’s H6 project aims to develop ultra-small, low-power clocks capable of maintaining microsecond precision for at least a week at temperatures of -40 to 85 degrees Celsius.

H6 refers to an 18th century British ocean navigation project which, in five increments, developed precise chronometers that helped British ocean navigators determine the positions of their ships in longitude to avoid disasters like the Scilly naval disaster in 1707 which destroyed four British warships and killed between 1,400 and 2,000 sailors due to navigational errors.

Related: DARPA seeks to wean smart weapons off GPS with an on-chip hybrid inertial navigation system

British inventor John Harrison developed five generations of clocks, which he called H1 to H5; the last was the first marine chronometer with the accuracy needed to accurately determine longitude. Navigators can determine latitude with sextants using the sun and stars; determining longitude, however, requires accurate clocks.

H6 is the spiritual successor to Harrison’s marine chronometers. While the problem of longitude was the preeminent challenge of the NTP of the past millennium, the denial of GPS is the biggest problem today, the DARPA researchers point out.

The ubiquitous compact synchronization remains essential today not only for navigation, but also for communications, electronic warfare (EW) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

A tactical-grade clock that maintains microsecond synchronization for a week would remove PNT synchronization from reliance on navigation satellites for the majority of U.S. military missions, and enable signal assurance, ubiquitous communications security, and remote communications. wide bandwidth.

Related: AOSense to Develop Navigation Chip That Combines Solid-State and Atomic Inertial Sensors

Today, such a tactical grade clock usable in the field does not exist; although there are clocks capable of achieving the necessary performance, their size, weight and power consumption (SWaP) limitations preclude their use in a tactical setting.

DARPA researchers are interested in SWaP constraint clocks that rely on compound mechanical clock technologies; sub-terahertz molecular clock technologies; or something completely different.

H6 will be a five-year program in three phases. The first phase will focus on clock dependence on temperature and SWaP reduction, while the second phase will focus on clock aging in the tactical temperature environment. The third phase will demonstrate a tactical-grade integrated clock and build five clocks.

Interested companies should upload abstracts by June 16, 2022 and full proposals by August 8, 2022 from the DARPA BAA website at https://baa.darpa.mil. Email questions to [email protected] More information is online at https://sam.gov/opp/fba0b64702914a0ab95f26681362cf79/view.

Comments are closed.