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Air Force PNT AgilePod achieves flight test objectives

January 3, 2022  - By

News from the Air Force Research Laboratory

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s complementary positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) AgilePod prototype achieved three important objectives in flight tests conducted at Edwards Air Force Base Nov. 1-10, 2021.

PNT AgilePod helps develop advanced navigation technology independent of GPS, according to Maj. Andrew Cottle, Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office. This technology provides reliable, resilient PNT navigation signals through alternative means, increasing mission effectiveness in scenarios where access to GPS is not guaranteed.

The test team — representing a broad base of Air Force, Navy and vendor organizations — successfully executed eight sorties aboard a T-38C aircraft, which included:

  • the first test of the PNT AgilePod on a high-dynamic-range platform
  • the first test of fully remote interfacing and alt-PNT data transmission
  • the first demonstration of overland/overwater transition performance.

He said the tests demonstrated the operational utility of a fused alt-PNT system incorporating multiple technologies within a single government-owned open-architecture prototype.

A PNT AgilePod attached to a T-38C successfully demonstrated remote interfacing and alt-PNT data transmission. as well as performance over land and water. (Photo: USAF/2nd Lt. Bowen Lin, 586th Flight Test Squadron)

A PNT AgilePod attached to a T-38C successfully demonstrated remote interfacing and alt-PNT data transmission, as well as performance over land and water. (Photo: USAF/2nd Lt. Bowen Lin, 586th Flight Test Squadron)

AgilePods Designed for Flexibility

AgilePods are comprised of a series of compartments and can be configured to meet a wide variety of mission requirements for many aircraft platforms. Experimenters can fill the spaces with plug-and-play sensors they need for a mission — high-definition video, electro-optical and infrared sensors, and devices with other capabilities — including PNT.

The AgilePod has an open hardware architecture. For the complementary PNT prototype, it was combined with an open software architecture that allows a wide variety of alternative PNT technology to integrate and pass information. These capabilities enable rapid integration of sensor technologies through standardized software and hardware interfaces, allowing the pod to seamlessly integrate on platforms that leverage the standard architectures.

In this way, one pod can perform hundreds of different mission sets with additional benefits of cost savings and increased sustainability, Cottle said.

The project directly supports the AFRL PNT Enterprise and the Air Force PNT Cross-Functional Team as they work to ensure reliable navigation within GPS-contested operational scenarios critical to the success of future Air and Space Force missions.

A PNT AgilePod attached to a T-38C successfully demonstrated remote interfacing and alt-PNT data transmission. as well as performance over land and water. (Photo: USAF/2nd Lt. Bowen Lin, 586th Flight Test Squadron)

A PNT AgilePod attached to a T-38C successfully demonstrated remote interfacing and alt-PNT data transmission, as well as performance over land and water. (Photo: USAF/2nd Lt. Bowen Lin, 586th Flight Test Squadron)

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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