What are MEMS Sensors?

One of the simplest and most popular ways of improving the accuracy of navigation systems is to combine GNSS-based navigation with inertial navigation using MEMS sensors. But what are they?

MEMS stands for micro-electromechanical systems, and MEMS sensors comprise a class of devices that are micromachined from bulk silicon. As they are made from silicon, it’s possible to produce devices such as accelerometers that combine both a sensing element and the associated signal conditioning circuitry on a single silicon die. The resulting devices are both compact and easy to apply as they can be manufactured with easy-to-use linear or digital outputs.

The first commercial MEMS-based accelerometers were produced in the early 2000s as triggers for automotive airbags, and many millions of devices have been used in this single application. Subsequent generations of devices have become increasingly sophisticated, with capabilities that include sensing acceleration in three dimensions. These “silicon gyros” are ideal for use as inertial sensors in hybrid navigation systems.

Spirent GNSS simulators incorporate support for GNSS/inertial navigator systems to enable testing of hybrid systems.

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