Advanced Navigation Adds Sensing Capabilities with Vai Acquisition

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SYDNEY, May 10, 2022 — AI robotics and navigation technology company Advanced Navigation has acquired Australian National University (ANU) spinout Vai Photonics. Vai is developing photonic sensors for precision navigation and joins Advanced Navigation to commercialize its research into autonomous and robotic applications across land, air, sea, and space, according to a press release.

“Precision navigation when GPS is unavailable or unreliable is a major challenge in the development of autonomous systems,” said James Spollard, CTO and co-founder of Vai Photonics. He said the company’s emerging photonic sensing technology will enable positioning and navigation that is more stable and precise than existing solutions operating in such environments. 

“By combining laser interferometry and electro-optics with advanced signal processing algorithms and real-time software, we can measure how fast a vehicle is moving in three dimensions. As a result, we can accurately measure how the vehicle is moving through the environment, and from this infer where the vehicle is located with great precision,” Spollard said.

The technology has been in development for over 15 years at ANU. It aims to solve autonomy challenges across the aerospace, automotive, weather, space exploration, railway, and logistics sectors. For example, Vai sensors will provide safe and reliable autonomous takeoff and landings under all conditions for aircraft with electric vertical takeoff and landing systems.

Vai Photonics Co-founders Lyle Roberts and James Spollard. Courtesy of Advanced Navigation.
Vai Photonics co-founders Lyle Roberts (left) and James Spollard. Courtesy of Advanced Navigation.
According to professor Brian Schmidt, vice-chancellor of ANU, Vai Photonics’ autonomous navigation systems stems from the search for elusive gravitational waves. “The team has built on a decade of research and development across advanced and ultraprecise laser measurements, digital signals, and quantum optics to build its innovative navigation technology,” Schmidt said.

The acquisition was completed in April. The Vai Photonics team has been integrated into Advanced Navigation’s R&D team.

Published: May 2022
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