Simulation results for an unmanned drone flying over downtown Los Angeles showing the true trajectory (red line), with GPS navigation only (yellow line), and GPS aided with cellular signals (blue line). (Aspin Laboratory at UC Riverside)

Researchers developed a highly reliable and accurate navigation system that exploits existing environmental signals such as cellular and Wi-Fi, rather than the Global Positioning System (GPS). The technology can be used as a standalone alternative to GPS, or complement current GPS-based systems to enable highly reliable, consistent, and tamper-proof navigation in autonomous vehicles such as unmanned drones.

For precision technologies such as aerospace, navigation systems typically combine GPS with an onboard Inertial Navigation System (INS). Current trends in autonomous vehicle navigation systems rely not only on GPS/INS, but a suite of other sensor-based technologies such as cameras, lasers, and sonar. The system can be used by itself, or, more likely, to supplement INS data in the event that GPS fails.