Five of the twenty five teams competing in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge for autonomous robotic ground vehicles, are relying on NavCom's StarFire Network to help them beat the odds and come away with the $1 million prize. DARPA is offering this prize to the team whose unmanned robotic car is the first to complete the 250mile off-road course from Barstow, Calif., across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 13, 2004. Once the race starts, no human interaction with the vehicle is allowed. The vehicle must be fully autonomous, interpreting the world through sensors and making its own decisions about navigation, route planning and obstacle avoidance.
These five teams selected NavCom Technology's StarFire Network, a satellite based augmentation system (SBAS) that provides precise positioning accuracies within a few centimeters of truth, along with one of NavCom's high performance dual-frequency SF-series GPS receivers as their guidance system. The StarFire Network is a global positioning system, originally developed for NavCom parent company and agricultural giant John Deere, that has since found applications ranging from geographical information systems (GIS) to military and defense.
The teams that have entrusted their positioning needs to NavCom and StarFire are: SciAutonics (SciAutonics, LLC), SciAutonics II (SciAutonics, LLC), Team Caltech (Caltech University), Terra Engineering, and Team CIMAR (Center for Intelligent Machines and Robotics, University of Florida & Autonomous Solutions, Inc.).
To access the StarFire Network, most have selected NavCom's SF-2050G receiver, a fully integrated, cost-effective, satellite communication sensor. The SF-2050 series, which incorporates several patented innovations, is ruggedized and packaged for mobility to suit a variety of machine guidance and control applications.
The Terra Engineering team credits NavCom with freeing them from having to worry about navigation and speed measurement, thus giving them time to devote to the other aspects of designing and building their team vehicle: the Terrahawk. Team CIMAR is equally satisfied with the performance of the StarFire Network agreeing that NavCom's technology provided the best solution to the challenges posed by the autonomous navigation.
The Barstow to Las Vegas race is intended to spur the accelerated development of autonomous ground vehicle technology for military applications and is the first in a series of Grand Challenge events planned by DARPA who intends to host the competition on a yearly basis until a victor emerges or until the $1 million cash prize expires in 2007.
Source: NavCom Technology, Jan. 29, 2004