GNSS receiver, drone developments from AUVSI Xponential 2018

June 20, 2018  - By

As the dust from this year’s AUVSI Xponential show, which took place May 1-4 in Denver, begins to settle, we complete the overview we began last month and wrap up our coverage of the show.


Septentrio introduced its AsteRx-i V product series of integrated GNSS/inertial receivers, based on the Septentrio m2 GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/BeiDou/QZSS/SBAS receiver and a high-end VectorNav MEMS IMU. Providing:

  • AsteRx-i V receiver & IMU. (Photo: Septentrio)

    AsteRx-i V receiver & IMU. (Photo: Septentrio)

    Reliable, accurate IMU-enhanced GNSS positioning down to the cm level

  • Full attitude — heading pitch and roll
  • Lightweight, low power <50 grams, typically 1.5 W — suitable for UAV applications
  • AIM+ interference monitoring and mitigation system
  • High update rate, low-latency positioning and attitude

Also introduced at the show was the AsteRx SB, a packaged version of the m2 receiver with multiple interfaces and Bluetooth wireless, targeted at machine control and other sensor fusion applications.

GSS9000 Simulator. (Image: Spirent)

GSS9000 Simulator. (Image: Spirent)

Spirent Federal

Spirent offered a demo of its “flagship” GSS9000 simulator at the show — with capability to generate all constellations, all frequencies, plus L-band signals. Kalani Needham (director of sales) also mentioned the company’s sim-MNSA program with Rockwell Collins, aimed at providing support for M-code for the GNSS simulation market.


Inspire drone. (Image: DJI)

Inspire drone. (Image: DJI)

As usual, the DJI booth was extremely busy — with a demo area almost continuously flying each of the most popular DJI drones. What I learnt from my visit was that 70 percent of sales are recreational, and the balance is commercial. With quadcopters for hobbyists, using replaceable parts, auto-flight systems and data links, DJI was virtually the first drone manufacturer to market, and still one of the most successful. The Phantom now carries gimbal-mounted cameras and is finding lots of applications with business, academics and government agencies, including first adopters like the film and TV industry.

Phantom 3 drone. (Image: DJI)

Phantom 3 drone. (Image: DJI)

DJI drones have weather resistant bodies, strong blades, swap-out easy-charge batteries, and ADS-B, RTK and heading capabilities. Set-up in the field is simple, with an SDK for lab developers, multi-spectral cameras for applications such as crop growth monitoring, real-time data available through the control uplink and infrared/visible slant-range outputs.

DJI’s approach is to keep ahead of the competition by adding more and more technology over time, and the company clearly has the sales volume to support this strategy.

CyPhy Works

PARC tethered drone system. (Photo: Tony Murfin)

PARC tethered drone system. (Photo: Tony Murfin)

CyPhy Works makes and promotes tethered drones — enabling very long endurance reconnaissance/forward observation/inspection/communications. The company got into this specific drone niche because it found customers who couldn’t live with short duration battery-restricted drone operations.

For ground forces, having a real-time video overview from higher altitude is of great benefit; similarly, they’re of great use for disaster recovery efforts, such as in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey in Texas. And if you add a Wi-Fi transducer working through one of two payload ports on its PARC (persistent aerial reconnaissance and communications) platform, you can also reconnect survivors and provide a comms network for first responders.

Ruggedized Duro receiver. (Image: Swift Navigation)

Ruggedized Duro receiver. (Image: Swift Navigation)

Swift Navigation

Swift is a relatively new GNSS receiver manufacturer, and its Piksi Multi receiver has a lot to do to catch up technically with the products offered by the predominant players in the market. So its approach is to use rock-bottom pricing for almost all of their offerings. Currently, the Piksi has only GPS L1/L2 and GLONASS L1/L2 plus SBAS, but Galileo and BeiDou are promised for later this year.

The new Swift capability launched at the show is Skylark, a cloud-based, hybrid PPP/RTK network currently testing in around six U.S. areas and planned for national and even worldwide coverage sometime in the future. Skylark is apparently cellular, with a large number of base sites, each equipped with a Swift Duro receiver. With a target subscription price of only $495 per year, this could be a popular GNSS assistance service, provided you use compatible Swift receivers in your application.

Swift is targeting automotive applications, and has a San Jose trial underway with Voyage at a retirement community — residents call for a self-driving taxi using a cell-phone app, and get transport anywhere in the 4,000-strong community. A similar trial at the Villages in Florida (125,000 residents and 750 miles of roads) is also apparently getting underway.

Hemisphere GNSS

Vector 500 Smart Antenna. (Photo: Hemisphere GNSS)

Vector 500 Smart Antenna. (Photo: Hemisphere GNSS)

Hemisphere GNSS was also at the show with its line of GNSS receiver solutions for UAVs, Atlas Correction Service and a new V500 Heading/Smart Antenna.

The Vector V500 is an all-in-one multi- frequency, multi-GNSS smart antenna that provides RTK-level position and precise heading. The latest generation of Hemisphere’s heading antennas now appears with an integrated GNSS receiver and a rugged design sealed for the harshest environments — a design that has evolved over many years. It takes a great deal of sweat and tears to get to a reliable weather-hardened product, and Hemisphere has no doubt incorporated a lot of experience into this latest product.

Atlas corrections are derived from public JPL data and are supplied worldwide over Inmarsat L-band satellite transmissions.

Harxon Corporation

D-Helix antenna. (Photo: Harxon)

D-Helix antenna. (Photo: Harxon)

Harxon’s D-Helix antenna got lots of attention at its booth, as did the OEM frequency-hopping transceiver. The D-Helix antenna supports GPS, Galileo, BeiDou and GLONASS, as well as L-band signal reception. With low wind resistance and ruggedized IP67 protection, this antenna appeared to be very popular at the show for UAV applications.

The frequency-hopping OEM transceiver works over 840-900 MHz and weighs in at only 5 grams. With anti-jamming and wide signal capability, this miniature device is designed for complex data-intensive applications. In full duplex mode, secure data transmissions are possible over long distances with low latency. The popularity for this transceiver at the show might be connected with a recent FAA proposed rule that would require transmission of a drone’s registration ID for remote identification.


Other neat products and applications the GPS World team came across at the show included:

  • Topcon’s B111 multi-constellation GNSS receiver and the Topcon-distributed Sirius Pro fixed-wing UAV and Intel Falcon 8+ quadcopter;
  • the Rockwell Collins aviation Flight Management System, which is apparently being incorporated into the General Atomics commercial Flight Guardian system;
  • Northrop Grumman’s project, which is tracking polar bears with UAVs in Northern Canada on behalf of the San Diego Zoo;
  • the senseFly eBee series of drones with automated mapping capability and a BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) trial in Canada with in-flight data — more on this later.

GPS World will bring you a special UAV supplement later in the year, and we will carry more news and details on selected manufacturers and applications within this exciting and ever-expanding drone industry.