Imagine a fighter jet pilot is flying a mission when the GPS signal cuts out. How does the pilot navigate when flying potentially unfamiliar terrain at more than 1,500 mph? Currently, non-GPS navigation is a manual process requiring a lot of the pilot’s attention, which means less focus on tactical awareness.

Saab, the Swedish defense and security company, and Maxar recently demonstrated a solution to that undesirable situation by integrating Maxar’s 3D data and Precision 3D Registration (P3DR) technology into the Gripen E software, the combat fighter jet that Saab develops and manufactures for Sweden and other countries.

A camera on the jet captures a livestream of its flight path. Maxar’s P3DR compares that incoming livestream to the Maxar 3D Surface Model of the area that is stored on the jet. By matching scenes in the livestream to the 3D data in real time, P3DR can determine the jet’s precise location, enabling the pilot to navigate and carry out the mission without GPS.

Maxar 3D Surface Model and P3DR

Maxar 3D Surface Model, immersive 3D data with superior accuracy and global coverage, offers the most accurate representation of Earth. The data is produced with a unique automated technology, delivered rapidly and with high precision. It is based on Maxar’s high-resolution, unclassified commercial satellite imagery, without the need for ground control points. Maxar’s 3D Surface Model product is a key input to the company’s Globe in 3D, a worldwide foundation of 3D data with resolution of 50 cm or better and 3 m accuracy in all dimensions.

Maxar’s P3DR is a stand-alone software solution that automatically georegisters imagery from any source to Maxar 3D reference data. This real-time capability enables navigation in a GPS-denied environment, safeguarding against signal jammers in an anti-access area denial (A2AD) environment.

Flying demonstration

Saab put this GPS-denied navigation technique to the test with a Gripen flight demonstration over Sweden. The GIF below demonstrates how P3DR closely overlays the livestream image on the Maxar 3D Surface Model, allowing the pilot to understand where they are on the map.

Keep an eye on the buildings along the left-center of the slider to see how closely P3DR aligns the camera’s livestream to the Maxar 3D Surface Model.

During the flight demonstration, the Gripen’s GPS was on to monitor the accuracy of the results. The GPS verified that the demonstration’s results were accurate.

What did this look like during flight? Watch the video below to see the processing power of P3DR.

The chart across the top of the video indicates the accuracy of the P3DR matching of the livestream video to the Maxar 3D Surface Model. When the camera encounters clouds, it lowers the accuracy of P3DR’s match; however, as long as there is some view of the ground, the accuracy is relatively high.

Game-changing capability

This terrain-aided, silent navigation is immune to GPS signal interference like jamming and spoofing efforts, and it doesn’t add to the pilot’s workload while flying. The successful flight demonstration of this capability is a significant step toward ensuring pilot safety during a GPS outage.

Have a clear view for your flight.

Add Maxar 3D and P3DR to your mapping system to ensure flight safety.

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