New MEMS IMU for Unmanned Vehicles Will Deliver Order of Magnitude Improvement in Inertial Accuracy

Honeywell announced that recent findings from its research labs show that its newly developed inertial sensors can deliver greater than an order of magnitude improvement in accuracy over its current tactical-grade product, the HG1930 inertial measurement unit (IMU).

With funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Honeywell has been developing new sensors based on micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology to precisely measure motion.

“Typically, MEMS inertial sensors have been on the lower end of the performance scale, but this latest milestone shows we are changing that paradigm,” said Jenni Strabley, director of offering management for Inertial Sensors, Honeywell Aerospace. “With this next-generation MEMS technology, we’re increasing performance without having to significantly change the size or weight of the IMU. This is a game-changer for the navigation industry, where customers need highly accurate solutions but cannot afford to compromise on weight or size.”

Over the past few years, Honeywell has been working with DARPA to develop the next generation of high precision “navigation grade” IMU technology, under the Precise Robust Inertial Guidance for Munitions: Thermally Stabilized Inertial Guidance for Munitions (PRIGM TIGM) program. These new, higher performance MEMS sensors will use different sensor design and electronics to enable higher performance. They will serve a broad range of applications in autonomous land and air vehicles for both military and commercial customers, including future urban air mobility aircraft.

Honeywell’s HG1930 IMU model (shown above) has more than 150,000 units currently in use in both commercial and defense navigation applications.

“Now that we have demonstrated that MEMS is capable of reaching these incredibly precise performance levels, it is the perfect time to start talking with potential users about how this technology could help their applications,” said Strabley. “We believe this new technology will have a variety of applications, such as onboard future vehicles that will fly in urban environments where lightweight, extremely precise navigation is critical to safer operations. Additionally, there are other applications that haven’t been invented yet but may be enabled by these types of technology innovations.” 

Commercial sales of an IMU containing these next-generation sensors are still several years away, but one of the first products using this new technology is expected to be more than 50 times more accurate while roughly the same size as Honeywell’s HG1930 IMU.