EAB Q&A: Is the GNSS community failing to exploit the potential of CSAC?

September 29, 2023  - By

“Is the GNSS community failing to exploit the potential of chip-scale atomic clocks (CSAC)?”

Photo: Orolia

John Fischer

“Yes! And there are several CSAC suppliers, each with varying accuracies, power consumptions, and price points. These atomic clocks are no longer exotic scientific instruments but rather commercialized, proven devices that can be mounted on a circuit card at a reasonable cost. They offer extended holdover time in the absence of GNSS and help with spoofing detection by verifying the incoming signal. They provide exact frequency recovery on power-up (re-trace) for power saving modes. Defense, telecom, financial transactions, and autonomous navigation for cars and drones are all applications that can be made more resilient by these clocks.”

— John Fischer
Safran Navigation & Timing

Jean-Marie Sleewaegen

Jean-Marie Sleewaegen

“Atomic clocks, including CSAC, are frequently used in GNSS timing applications, for example to keep accurate time during GNSS outages or to assist in identifying spoofing attacks targeting the time component. On the other hand, the long-term stability of atomic clocks is not particularly relevant in navigation applications where time is not the main output, and the additional cost, power consumption and size of CSAC are not justified.”

— Jean-Marie Sleewaegen

Headshot: Ismael Colomina

Ismael Colomina

“Indeed. After the DARPA-NIST initiative and subsequent commercialization, affordable, accurate and stable chip-scale oscillators can be easily integrated into circuit boards providing additional measurements to PNT systems to improve positional vertical accuracy, as well as reliability and integrity. For example, in high-end mobile mapping systems operating in complex urban scenarios, their use helps detect GNSS outliers at a relatively negligible additional cost.”

— Ismael Colomina

About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@northcoastmedia.net or 541-543-0525.