Skip to Main Content
This article describes a method of navigation for an individual based on traditional inertial navigation system (INS) technology, but with very small and self-contained sensor systems. A conventional INS contains quite accurate, but large and heavy, gyroscopes and accelerometers, and converts the sensed rotations and accelerations into position displacements through an algorithm known as a strapdown navigator. They also, almost without exception, use an error compensation scheme such as a Kalman filter to reduce the error growth in the inertially sensed motion through the use of additional position and velocity data from GPS receivers, other velocity sensors (e.g., air, water, and ground speed), and heading aids such as a magnetic compass. This technology has been successfully used for decades, yet the size, weight, and power requirements of sufficiently accurate inertial systems and velocity sensors have prevented their adoption for personal navigation systems. Now, however, as described in this article, miniature inertial measurement units (IMUs) as light as a few grams are available. When placed on the foot to exploit the brief periods of zero velocity when the foot strikes the ground (obviating the need for additional velocity measurement sensors), these IMUs allow the realization of a conventional Kalman-filter-based aided strapdown inertial navigation system in a device no larger or heavier than a box of matches. A particular advantage of this approach is that no stride modeling is involved with its inherent reliance on the estimation of a forward distance traveled on every step ????????? the technique works equally well for any foot motion, something especially critical for soldiers and first responders. Also described is a technique to exploit magnetic sensor orientation data even in indoor environments where local disturbances in the Earth?????????s magnetic field are significant. By carefully comparing INSderived and magnetically derived heading and orient ation, a system can automatically determine when sensed magnetic heading is accurate enough to be useful for additional error compensation.