Vision system aims for the stars to replace GPS

The “Vision” system is a daylight stellar finder currently in development by the French companies Safran Electronics & Defense and Sodern. With such a device, an aircraft could find its bearings without the use of satellite geolocalisation (GPS or Galileo).

Stellar finders are usually employed by spacecraft to measure the coordinates of one or more stars and use them to estimate with precision its position or trajectory, using a pre-recorded database. Sodern already produces the stellar finder used by the M51 intercontinental ballistic missile.

A test campaign of the “Vision” system was carried out between November and December 2020, and the technology demonstrator showed promise.

Two ground tests demonstrated the system’s ability to track multiple stars, day and night. Following the ground testing, “Vision” was installed onboard an ATR42 aircraft for four test flights. “Many stars were caught and tracked in a fine way by the demonstrator, throughout the flight paths and a precise estimate of the position of the aircraft was obtained,” said the Defense Innovation Agency of the French Ministry of Armed Forces.

Additional tests will be carried out throughout 2021 in order to improve the performance of the demonstrator. The Ministry eventually expects the technology to be used in “transport and refueling aircraft, long-endurance drones, airplanes weapons, ships or even, in the longer term, missiles.” Mass production of the system is expected by 2025, with plans to eventually expand it to the civilian market.

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