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Using environmental sensors to enable autonomous mobility at MSEC

One of the very informative presentations at the MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress (MSEC) this week was given by Marcellino Gemelli, Director of Global Business Development from Bosch Sensortec. He discussed how environmental sensors (Humidity, barometric pressure both are in Bosch’s BME environmental line, and environmental devices from the BMP barometric pressure line could enable autonomous mobility.

Marcellino Gemelli presenting his 'Environmental Sensors Enabling Autonomous Mobility' presentation to the MSEC audience (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

Marcellino Gemelli presenting his “Environmental Sensors Enabling Autonomous Mobility” presentation to the MSEC audience (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

Gemelli commented that offset in the GPS system can create errors in a drone location because the GPS introduces a growing offset between the takeoff and landing locations; adding a barometric pressure sensor for altitude has been shown to improve this for accurate autonomous mobility.

Using a Bosch BMP380 can help an autonomous drone hover with very small altitude deviation because of the IC’s low drift during flight, temperature and pressure operating range, and a stable altitude hold at 50 Hz deviation of less than +/- 10 cm.

Enhanced drone stability (Image courtesy of Bosch Sensortec)

Enhanced drone stability (Image courtesy of Bosch Sensortec)

Gemelli also showed how a drone can successfully operate in urban canyons with tight drone “corridors” and congested airspace where GPS is not available or is impaired. NextNav’s MBS radiolocation coupled with sensor fusion and a pressure sensor enables this kind of autonomous capability in these tight spots.

Next, Gemelli spoke about autonomous vehicle navigating in areas with multi-level roads. Without a pressure sensor, the navigation system does not know where the autonomous vehicle might be on a ground level road/street or on a ramp going up to an elevated highway. Vertical location is critical here.

Or how about location in a multi-level building? Would emergency medical services have a difficult time finding a person fast enough where time is of the essence? Floor level changes can be detected via measurement of air pressure and then converted to elevation.

Environmental sensors can enable autonomous mobility by providing accurate building floor level requirements (Image courtesy of Bosch Sensortec)

Environmental sensors can enable autonomous mobility by providing accurate building floor level requirements (Image courtesy of Bosch Sensortec)

Multi-level parking garages make GPS location uncertain or unusable; pressure sensors will excel here, especially with uncertain wireless propagation.

Finally, Gemelli discussed autonomous fleet management such as in taxi service. In this case, we have no driver so that spills, smoking, vomit, pets, etc. cannot be easily detected over the course of the day when multiple passengers are picked up without a driver to clean up between rides. We saw how the BME680 can detect odors with its gas sensor and even moisture from spills or animal accidents with a humidity sensor on board this IC as well.

Cleaning robots can also navigate around spills and solid obstacles as pet waste so as not to soil its cleaning brushes. Environmental sensors, like pressure, temperature, humidity, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) onboard will greatly improve this autonomous cleaning when no one is home.

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