ASIO to integrate its optical navigation system into a US-based drones

ASIO Technologies from Rosh-Ha’ayin, Israel, has disclosed it is integrating its NavGuard optical navigation systems into the drone platforms of a new US defense customer. NavGuard is a navigation system for tactical drones based solely on optical sensors, thus eliminating the dependency on GPS that exposes it to jamming attacks. Launched earlier this year, ASIO supplies the system to the IDF – directly and through drones’ manufacturers. 

Jamming is one of the most significant weak spots of military drones, who base their  navigation on GPS for location and orientation in air. However, as the GPS signals arrive from remote satellites, they are easily jammed. There are two methods for signals jamming:  transmission of strong signals that mask the original satellite signals and thus prevent their reception or transmission of false signals that send wrong information, causing the receiver to “think” that it is somewhere else. 

There are few electric protection systems on the market designed to block jamming  transmissions. Asio offers complete immunity against jamming through a navigation system that relies on optical navigation rather than GPS. NavGuard is based on day and night  cameras who provide real time visual sensing of the drone’s surroundings. In order to understand the geographic location of the drone, the system compares the visual  information from the cameras with a 3D map of the mission area, sets the location of the drone relative to the map, and provides the vessel’s command and control unit with the coordinates in a GPS format. 

For instance, if the drone flies over the Azrieli towers, the system will be able to identify this landmark on the map and “understand” the location coordinates of the drone. The optical  navigation system can be used as a backup for GPS-based navigation system or as the  primary system. 

In a conversation with Techtime, David Harel, ASIO’s CEO, says that NavGuard is a unique solution in the tactical drones’ world: “There are similar systems designed for fighter planes,  battleships and armored fighting vehicles, but they are heavy and expensive. Asio managed to develop a light-weight solution that meets the tactical drone’s requirements.” In order to adjust the system for additional platforms, Asio is currently developing smaller versions of the system for various flight outlines. 

Harel: “Our system increase the drone’s latitude and the operational confidence in  completing the mission. We see tremendous interest in this solution, and it even increased following the war in Ukraine, where drones are heavily used”. 

Currently, Asio supplies its solution to the military market, but according to Harel, the  jamming threat is relevant for the commercial drones, as well: “This problem worries the whole drones market, not only the military one. As soon as shipment of commercial packages will start to fly over populated areas – there will be a need for jamming solution”. 

InfiniDome proved GPS protection efficiency at the Israel-Syria border

InfiniDome Company from Caesarea, Israel, has revealed that it conducted several tests at the Israel-Syria border. The purpose of these tests was to examine the resilience level of its GPSdome, a system intended to protect GPS against jamming. The Israel-Syria border has been experiencing frequent jamming from Russian forces positioned in Syria. These forces  operate powerful jamming instruments as part of their Syrian operational activities. Being highly powerful, jamming signals cross the border and interfere with IDF’s activities. In 2019, Israel publicly condemned Russian jamming attacks from Syria, which were also affecting commercial air traffic at the country’s main airport in the center of the country.  

Within the test, which was conducted along the border in the Golan Heights, InfiniDome located Russian jamming attacks and analyzed their impact on the GPS navigation’s functionality. The company tested the performance of the U-Blox M8N GNSS receiver, widely used by drones and vehicles, and compared the protected GPS system’s activity with an unprotected system. The test showed that the protected receiver continued to receive GPS signals with no interruptions, even during an extremely strong jamming attack. In contrast, the unprotected GNSS receiver lost the GPS signal during the attack and the navigation system lost its orientation and positioning capabilities. At the same time, the system reported the attack via its dedicated alert output to the control room. 

GPS signals are easily interrupted: The signals are incredibly weak, transmitted from  satellites orbiting at 20,000 km above the Earth’s surface. The jamming can be performed in  two methods: transmitting strong signals which screen the original satellite’s signals and  prevent their reception, or transmitting false signals to the receiver, disrupting its  positioning mechanism. The InfiniDome’s GPSdome system uses the Null Steering Algorithm  technique for identification, and the company’s RFIC transmission components. 

The module is capable of identifying the jamming signals as well as their originating  direction, and is capable of attenuating them, thus preventing the interruption of the GNSS  receiver. The module is highly adaptable, which makes it perfect for any unmanned system:  it is installed between the GPS receiver and the antennas, weighs 75g and has efficient power consumption (max power consumption: <0.8W). 

Strategic cooperation with Honeywell 

In April 2021, InfiniDome completed a pre-series A round of $2.4 Million that includes investments from Next Gear Ventures, the lead investor, and Honeywell Ventures. Following this strategic move, both companies had conducted joint projects at the field of protecting military drones, UAV’s and flying taxis. In August 2021 they announced their first joint project: Secured navigation system for commercial and military drones. At the  next phase, the companies may adjust the system for additional aerial platforms, such as UAV’s and ground vehicles.  

Border lines, especially between hostile countries, are prone to GPS jamming intended to affect UAV’s expedition and lookout activities. This affects not only surveillance drones, but anyone dependent on GPS signals in the area: such as civilian drones, agricultural drones, tractors, and any other platforms using GPS, including passenger planes. For instance, along the U.S.-Mexico border, drug cartels are using jammers on U.S. border surveillance drones to hide their operations from the U.S. government, and pirates may be the cause of ship and plane navigation confusion through the use of jammers. 

In the video: The protected reciever during the jamming attack

In the video: The unprotected reciever during the jamming attack