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Advanced Navigation acquires Vai Photonics for precision navigation

May 12, 2022  - By
Vai Photonics was founded in Canberra in 2021 by physicists Lyle Roberts (left) and James Spollard to commercialize their research at Australian National University. ANU Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt is at right. (Photo: Vai Photonics)

Vai Photonics was founded in Canberra in 2021 by physicists Lyle Roberts (left) and James Spollard to commercialize their research at Australian National University. ANU Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt is at right. (Photo: Vai Photonics)

Advanced Navigation has acquired Vai Photonics, a spin-out from Australian National University (ANU) developing patented photonic sensors for precision navigation.

Vai Photonics’ vision, to provide technology to drive the autonomy revolution, is similar to Advanced Navigation’s. It will join Advanced Navigation in commercializing its research into autonomous and robotic applications across land, air, sea and space.

“The technology Vai Photonics is developing will be of huge importance to the emerging autonomy revolution,” said Xavier Orr, CEO and co-founder of Advanced Navigation. “The synergies, shared vision and collaborative potential we see between Vai Photonics and Advanced Navigation will enable us to be at the absolute forefront of robotic- and autonomy-driven technologies. Photonic technology will be critical to the overall success, safety and reliability of these new systems.”

James Spollard, CTO and co-founder of Vai Photonics, explained the technology. “Precision navigation when GPS is unavailable or unreliable is a major challenge in the development of autonomous systems. Our emerging photonic-sensing technology will enable positioning and navigation that is orders of magnitude more stable and precise than existing solutions in these environments. By combining laser interferometry and electro-optics with advanced signal-processing algorithms and real-time software, we can measure how fast a vehicle is moving in three dimensions. As a result, we can accurately measure how the vehicle is moving through the environment, and from this infer where the vehicle is located with great precision.”

The technology, in development for more than 15 years at ANU, will solve complex autonomy challenges across aerospace, automotive, weather and space exploration, as well as railways and logistics.

Aircraft with an electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing system such as flying taxis will greatly benefit from this technology, according to Advanced Navigation. Landing and takeoff are often considered the most dangerous and expensive part of a flight route. Vai Photonics sensors will provide safe and reliable autonomous takeoff and landings under all conditions.

Space travel and exploration is fraught with risks, vast complexity and enormous cost. This technology will bring massive benefits to space missions, helping to cement Advanced Navigation as the gold-standard for space-qualified navigation systems for space exploration.

“The work that underpins Vai Photonics’ advanced autonomous navigation systems stems from the search for elusive gravitational waves — ripples in space and time caused by massive cosmic events like black holes colliding,” said Brian Schmidt, vice-chancellor of ANU. “The team have built on a decade of research and development across advanced and ultra-precise laser measurements, digital signals and quantum optics to build their innovative navigation technology.”

 

About the Author:


Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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