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News & Media

DARPA Grand Challenge Teams Trust NavCom’s StarFire™ Network

Torrance, CA., (January 29, 2004) - Five of the twenty five teams competing in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge for autonomous robotic ground vehicles, are relying on NavCom’s StarFire™ Network to help them beat the odds and come away with the $1 million prize. DARPA is offering this prize to the team whose unmanned robotic car is the first to complete the 250mile off-road course from Barstow, CA across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas, Nevada on March 13, 2004. Once the race starts, no human interaction with the vehicle is allowed. The vehicle must be fully autonomous, interpreting the world through sensors and making its own decisions about navigation, route planning, and obstacle avoidance.

These five teams selected NavCom Technology’s StarFire Network, a satellite based augmentation system (SBAS) that provides precise positioning accuracies within a few centimeters of truth, along with one of NavCom’s high performance dual-frequency SF-series GPS receivers as their guidance system. The StarFire Network is a global positioning system, originally developed for NavCom parent company and agricultural giant John Deere, that has since found applications ranging from geographical information systems (GIS) to military and defense.

The teams that have entrusted their positioning needs to NavCom and StarFire are: SciAutonics (SciAutonics, LLC), SciAutonics II (SciAutonics, LLC), Team Caltech (Caltech University), Terra Engineering, and Team CIMAR (Center for Intelligent Machines and Robotics, University of Florida & Autonomous Solutions, Inc.).

"The StarFire Network is a unique system and we believe that the teams that are using it as their basic navigation and positioning sensor will benefit greatly from its extraordinary positioning accuracy,” said NavCom Director of Advanced Programs Dr. Peter Williams. “With the many challenges this race poses, the accuracy and reliability of the navigation sensor will be a very important component to winning this race and we believe that StarFire provides the best available solution in this regard."

Bob Addison, sensor team lead for the SciAutonics I team agreed, “we feel we need that kind of accuracy in order to follow the waypoints set out by DARPA, particularly in the corridor that is only ten feet wide.”

The other NavCom affiliated teams echoed the endorsement. "During the development of our race vehicle, the SF-2050G has proven to be flawlessly reliable and easy to integrate,” says Team Caltech leader Dave van Gogh. “It has lived up to all of our expectations, giving us the ability to accurately measure the position and velocity of our vehicle."

To access the StarFire Network, most have selected NavCom’s popular SF-2050G receiver, a fully integrated, cost-effective, satellite communication sensor. The SF-2050 series, which incorporates several patented innovations, is ruggedized and packaged for mobility to suit a variety of machine guidance and control applications.

The Terra Engineering team credits NavCom with freeing them from having to worry about navigation and speed measurement, thus giving them time to devote to the other aspects of designing and building their team vehicle: the Terrahawk. “The SF-2050G provides extremely accurate position and velocity data for our autonomous Terrahawk vehicle. The ease of integration, good customer support and StarFire Network made it a clear choice for us. Having an off-the-shelf robust GPS sub-system allowed us to focus our efforts on other areas of the vehicle,” said Kevin Knoedler, Terra Engineering Navigation/Network/Software team lead.

Team CIMAR is equally satisfied with the performance of the StarFire Network agreeing that NavCom’s technology provided the best solution to the challenges posed by the autonomous navigation. Software Team Manager Sarah Gray said “we are very pleased with the navigation performance and accuracy of StarFire and it has made an important contribution to the design of our vehicle.”

The Barstow to Las Vegas race is intended to spur the accelerated development of autonomous ground vehicle technology for military applications and is the first in a series of Grand Challenge events planned by DARPA who intends to host the competition on a yearly basis until a victor emerges or until the $1 million cash prize expires in 2007.

NavCom Technology, Inc., a John Deere Company (NYSE:DE), is a leading provider of advanced GPS products for OEMs, VARs and system integrators needing high performance RTK systems, global decimeter level GPS satellite corrections, geodetic quality GPS receivers, wireless communication products and engineering consulting in the areas of precise positioning and wireless communications. For more information on NavCom and its products, please visit www.NavComTech.com or contact sales@NavComTech.com.

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