Inertial Navigation System (INS) uses a self-contained navigation technique to track the position and orientation of an object relative to a known starting point, orientation, or velocity. Inertial navigation is used in a wide range of applications, including the navigation of aircraft, tactical and strategic missiles, spacecraft, submarines, and ships.
A wide range of forces such as increasing demand for accuracy in navigation, growing aerospace and defense market, and high availability of small and robust components will pave the way for the INS market, to rise significantly in future. Recent advancements in the micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology have made it possible to manufacture small, light, and low-cost INS. The increased use of satellite navigation for commercial applications will also fuel the growth of the Inertial Navigation System market in the future. System initialization and error propagation are some of the challenges faced by this market.
The demand for INSes is growing at a steady pace across the globe. High availability of MEMS gyroscope, Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs), and accelerometers drive the growth in the INS market. Advancements in all these components make INSes cheaper and affordable, with the error margin being minimized significantly. Its ability to work underwater has created opportunities in water navigation. Low-cost MEMS-based gyroscopes are the next logical step in the development of INSes. There is a significant reduction in cost with the advancement of technology. These are used in small unmanned vehicle, guided missiles, personnel navigation, and autonomous vehicles.
MEMS INSes are now accepted in high reliability environments, and are even starting to replace Fiber Optic Gyroscope (FOG) and other technologies in tactical grade and precision guidance applications. MEMSes are 20 times more accurate than FOGs and cost about $1,000 as compared to FOGs, which costs about $3,000. High reliability, performance improvement, and significant cost reduction are the main reasons for the shift from FOGs to MEMSes. Antenna array stabilization, agricultural machine control, and general vehicle navigation are some applications where FOG technology will be dominated by MEMS.
SBG Systems has developed Ekinox series of MEMS-based INSes. These have been designed to take robust and cost-effective MEMSes to the tactical grade, without compromising on cost and accuracy. For example, Ekinox-A is a cost-effective alternative to FOG technology for antenna array stabilization and mobile land equipment orientation. It can also be used in marine applications such as remotely-operated vehicles (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) navigation, hydrography, and ship motion monitoring.
The major advantage of an INS is that it does not require any external references for calculating the position, velocity, direction of movement, and orientation of a moving object. It can operate in environments such as tunnels, heavy buildings, underwater, and even in places where there is limited or no Global Positioning System (GPS) access available.
Recent advances in MEMS technology has made it possible to manufacture small, light, and low-cost INSes. These advances have widened the range of possible applications to include areas such as human and animal motion capture.
There are several developments in the usage of technology within the field of INS. Applanix recently developed a powerful and unique integrated Global Satellite Navigation Systems (GNSS) technology for mobile mapping. This technology is capable of providing accurate measurement for positioning and orientation in all types of environment, even in situations where accurate differential GNSS position is often marginal or impossible.
Hemispherical Resonator Gyro (HRG)-based INS will be the next advancement in marine navigation. HRGs have been successfully implemented in satellite navigation, and with a little modification in certain components they can be applied in marine navigation as well. Until now, gyrocompasses that were used in ships had been equipped with mechanical gyroscopes. These mechanical gyroscopes have a limited service life and their operational cost is high. HRGs would be an ideal solution requiring minimum maintenance, while bring down cost and improving service life. Sagem has developed an INS called BlueNaute, based on the HRG technology. It is an extremely reliable solution with infinite service life. Its shorter production cycle has opened up doors for new market for maintenance-free INS. BlueNaute is a cost-effective solution from long-term perceptive, but it is a little expensive for an entry-level solution. This innovation has encouraged the development of INS for commercial shipping market which would be much cheaper and affordable.
INS is used in almost all military vehicles including armored vehicle, tanks and artillery systems. The armored vehicle market is estimated at $22.5 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach $28.62 billion by 2019. The increased demand of armored vehicle in developing nations and paramount importance given to the homeland security in developing countries are the major reason for the growth in this market. Artillery system market is expected to see a boom in Asia. China has announced that it will increase its defense budget by 12.2% to $132 billion. Sagem has developed Sigma 10 INS for military vehicles. It provides an accurate orientation and positioning solution that does not depend on a GPS. It is highly reliable and compact, and can be easily integrated with vehicles.
All INS suffer from integration drift with small errors in the measurement of acceleration and angular velocity over time, which causes increase in distance. These errors are compounded into greater errors in position. These accumulated errors are proportional to the time and distance traveled, since the new position is calculated from the previous calculated position. The speed of aircraft is multiple times greater than that of ships, so air navigators have to work faster to fix their position. Even minor miscalculations could result in greater errors.
Many countries are investing heavily to strengthen their naval defense. There are tremendous growth opportunities for the INS market in unmanned vehicles. The increasing demand of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV), and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) will lead to a significant rise in the INS market in future.
This market will observe a tremendous growth in the future across countries in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East regions. The increase in defense budget of countries such as China, India, and South Korea will fuel the growth of the INS market in the defense segment.