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Handheld Dismount Kit for Persistent, Precision Navigation in GPS-challenged Environments for Military Operations





The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the solicitation and within the AF Component-specific instructions. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws. Please direct questions to the AF SBIR/STTR Contracting Officer, Ms. Gail Nyikon,


OBJECTIVE: Build and demonstrate a handheld navigation system that is less than 5 lbs, capable of constraining position error growth, and reports estimated position accuracy in GPS-challenged environments.


DESCRIPTION: Accuracy, reliability, persistence, and integrity of Position Navigation and Timing (PNT) information from GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) is under constant threat from asymmetrical jamming and spoofing attacks, rendering operations in anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) or “contested” environments increasingly difficult. A surge of R&D initiatives has given scientists and engineers a variety of tools and techniques that can be used to increase the resiliency of our navigation systems. These include, but are not limited to: GPS anti-Jam/anti-Spoof mechanisms; augmentations with GNSS, exploitation of signals of opportunity (SoOP) such as telecommunication towers or eLoran; vision aided navigation; advancements in MEMS-based navigation sensors; and many more. Navigation system concepts which are designed for GPS-“challenged” environments often have to compromise between performance, robustness, and SWaP-C (Size, Weight, Power and Cost). This topic seeks to leverage the aforementioned innovations as well as other novel ideas to design, build, and field a man-portable navigation system to be used by ground-based forces to navigate to a target in a GPS-contested environment.

The following vignette depicts the robustness and performance required. A tactical vehicle navigates to a drop-off point. Military forces dismount and approach a target of interest on foot, traversing several kilometers over many (up to 12) hours on batteries. The operation occurs in day or darkness, in inclement weather, and in environments with little or no infrastructure such as remote deserts and forests. When GPS and other GNSS are available they can be used. When GPS is degraded or denied, other RF SoOP and landmark-based navigation updates (e.g. vision, magnetic, etc.) should be used to constrain position error growth. Initialization will be at a known location or with GPS.

Throughout the mission, it is desired that the accuracy performance of the navigation solution should be as good as possible with the objective of constraining position errors to less than 100 m. Currently, this level of performance is unfeasible with unaided MEMS-based inertial navigation systems, and while it is anticipated the accuracy will vary throughout the mission depending on the aiding source used, it is critical that valid position accuracy estimates are provided throughout the mission.

Use of aiding to constrain the navigation system error growth is anticipated, and this aiding can include, but is not limited to: vision, radar, RF SoOPs, magnetometer-based landmarks, ranging radios, etc. As the forces will be traveling in a group, a collaborative, a multi-user networked architecture could be considered.

The navigation system can integrate with existing radios and battlespace awareness applications currently used by US military forces. It must be a handheld unit similar in size to a smartphone or tablet with any extra hardware, such as antennas or complimentary sensors, being as few and miniaturized/non-cumbersome as possible. The total weight (including batteries) must not exceed 5 lbs, and ideally is 1 lb or less. The troops must have location, location accuracy, and navigation information constantly updated on their handheld devices (or provided to existing display devices in the appropriate format) after they have dismounted from the vehicle.

This effort will receive no more than $1.5M for this award. 


PHASE I: Contractor will have developed a navigation system design, software architecture, and provided test reports showing system performance using real data (with simulated GPS outages/jamming), and a plan for miniaturizing the system to a handheld form factor/providing a real-time navigation solution.


FEASIBILITY DOCUMENTATION: Offerors interested in submitting a Direct to Phase II proposal in response to this topic must provide documentation to substantiate that the scientific and technical merit and feasibility described has been met and describes the potential commercial applications. The documentation provided must substantiate that the proposer has developed a preliminary understanding to build a handheld dismount kit for persistent, precision navigation in GPS-challenged environments for military operations. Documentation should include all relevant information including, but not limited to: technical reports, test data, prototype designs/models, and performance goals/results. Read and follow all of Step 1 of the Air Force 15.3 Instructions. The Air Force will not evaluate the offeror’s related DP2 proposal where it determines that the offeror has failed to demonstrate the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of the Phase I project.


PHASE II: Build and demonstrate a handheld navigation system that operates for 8 hrs on batteries, weighs less than 5 lbs, outputs standard NMEA, and displays position and position accuracy when used by dismounted military forces operating in a GPS-challenged environment. Accuracy of the system will be dependent on environment, the estimate of the accuracy must be provided to the user. The system must include additional methods to constrain position error growth when GPS is not available.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Further miniaturize the device, add 12 hr battery life, and enhance its performance in terms of ruggedness (IP64 threshold with IP67 objective, transportation at 25,000 ft, and operation at 0 to 85C threshold with -40C to 125C objective), accuracy, and other capabilities, such as time distribution.


KEYWORDS: GPS denied, alternative navigation, MEMS, A2AD, jamming, handheld, networked GPS, eLoran, feature-based navigation, multisensor navigation, Special Forces

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