Facts About Inertial Navigation Systems You Might Not Already Know

Facts About Inertial Navigation Systems You Might Not Already Know

Any moving vessel, whether piloted by a human or avionics systems, depends on three important factors: precision, velocity, and balance. This is especially true of complex vehicles such as airplanes, autonomous vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Even when conditions are imperfect, you need inertial navigation systems that can provide perfect navigation. Continue reading to discover four interesting facts about inertial navigation systems that you may not already know.

How Do Inertial Navigation Systems Work?

What makes INS such a practical navigational solution is that it can assist with flight without the need for GPS technology. Global positioning systems or an operator are necessary to set the initial position, velocity, and orientation of the vehicle. However, from there, INS systems can provide pinpoint navigation without assistance from the global positioning satellite system.

Inertial navigation systems work by using accelerometers and gyroscopes to calculate position, velocity, and other elements of movement. As the aircraft continues to travel along its path, the INS device will continuously calculate and update all the motion elements via information received from motion sensors.

INS Components

As mentioned above, INS systems primarily consist of accelerometers and gyroscopes, as well as a microcomputer that processes information in real time. Gyroscopes measure the sensor frame’s angular velocity relative to the inertial reference frame and accelerometers capture information on speed and direction of acceleration.

At the heart of every inertial navigation system is an IMU, or inertial measurement unit, which integrates the accelerometers and gyroscopes. Some IMUs are also equipped with magnetometers to enhance functionality. The microcomputer gathers information using all these components, then calculates the vehicle’s current location.


GPS technology is a navigation system driven by satellite transmission and a ground control component. These systems provide precise data on geographical location, time, velocity, and other information for all methods of travel. However, they require constant connection to the satellite system in order to provide accurate navigation. Inertial navigation systems are fully autonomous after initialization, which means they do not need to rely on GPS and, since they are self-contained, they are resistant to radar jamming.

Advantages of an INS Navigation System

Since INS technology is resistant to jamming and spoofing, it is the perfect solution for complex operations on land, sea, air, and space. The latest advancements in inertial navigation systems include powerful IMUs and precise data packaged into a lightweight device. On the other hand, IMUs still face certain challenges, such as calculation errors that become more prominent with each new positional calculation. That is why inertial navigation systems work best when paired with other navigation systems that can correct the calculated vehicle position from time to time, such as GPS.

Inertial navigation systems date back as early as the 1940s but progress, curiosity, and an ever-growing demand for precision have all delivered a new generation of bleeding edge navigation. GPS denial should not compromise your aircraft’s ability to navigate successfully. ASEI uses GPS and INS to engineer navigational solutions for every project, simply contact us today to learn more.

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