078 - Autonomous Alternative Absolute Navigation (AAAN) technologies for maritime

078 - Autonomous Alternative Absolute Navigation (AAAN) technologies for maritime


These days, GNSS is fundamental for navigating but it is still fragile: it can be spoofed or jammed.

Using a sextant to determine a star position relative to the horizon, sailors have marked ship locations for centuries using Celestial Navigation (CN). Nowadays technology would allow automatic adoption of this technique, extending its utilization to daylight and exploiting not only stars, but also artificial satellites as reference sources. The technology is being revisited for maritime use cases (e.g. DARPA). The technology can consider other celestial bodies as well as the sensing in non-visible spectrum to increase availability during daytime or in cloudy conditions.

Similarly to GNSS, CN can then be combined with different sensors, e.g. inertial sensors, to mitigate the drawbacks of each single technique, e.g. exploiting the CN for calibrating bias and drift of the inertial sensors while using inertial sensors to predict the motion in the short term.

The exploitation of Celestial Navigation with sensors allowing weather and light independent measurements for Absolute Autonomous Navigation and Timing for autonomous vessels can provide a safe and robust alternative to GNSS.

Objective: This activity aims to study and demonstrate new concepts for absolute autonomous PNT for the maritime environment, in particular for autonomous vessels in open seas.

It will include a detailed assessment, trade-off and demonstration via prototyping, of the tangible benefits provided by adopting Celestial Navigation with multi-band sensors for detecting natural and artificial celestial targets during night and day independently of the meteorologically conditions.

Description of innovation/Tasks: 

  • At technological level: modernisation of CN and comprehensive hybridisation of alternative technologies, with target accuracy better than the existing CN devices (<100m, TBC).
  • At the level of the vertical: for the maritime, AAAN could become a fundamental resource for autonomous vessels, for resisting spoofing and jamming attacks, complementing and being an alternative backup solution to GNSS with Inertial/Visual Navigation.
  • Review studies on autonomous vessels, e.g. NAVISP-EL1-020  Maritime AI-NAV 
  • Review state-of-the-art of APNT and CN for Maritime
  • Develop absolute navigation solution alternative to GNSS adaptable to very different ship sizes.

Expected output:

Autonomous continuous robust absolute navigation for autonomous vessels in open sea (depending on the achievable accuracy, could also support artic navigation). Spin-off could benefit many more users (civil aviation, aid to Search&Rescue, etc.).