Precise Positioning Using Low Cost MEMS Sensors and GPS

Start Dates:

Start Date 1: 04/07/2020 8:30 am


Location Course 1: Columbia, Maryland

Course Length:





This hands-on 3-day course provides in-depth instruction on how three exciting low cost technologies (microcontrollers, MEMS sensors, and GPS) are coming together to provide very compact, yet robust, low cost positioning and navigation solutions. Many believe these solutions could revolutionize autonomous vehicles, UAVs and drones, precision agriculture, construction, and maritime industries. This hands-on course delves into how microcontrollers, MEMS sensors, and small GPS receivers are integrated to create low-cost position, navigation and timing (PNT) systems.

Each participant will receive a comprehensive hardware kit consisting of a microcontroller, multiple MEMS sensors, various cables and other related items for use in the course. They will also receive comprehensive instruction material and software code for running examples on the microcontroller via their laptop. Each participant is requested to bring their own laptop (Apple or PC, with latest versions of Mac OS or Windows). We will be programming the microcontrollers (full code will be provided!), but no prior knowledge of microcontroller programming is required (we’ll step you through it!). The instruction will be balanced between presentations and hands-on exercises with the hardware. You’ll depart on the third day with detailed knowledge on how these devices work, along with the hardware kit.

What you will learn:

  • How low-cost microcontrollers are used to process data from inertial measurement sensors and GPS in real-time
  • How MEMS gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers, and barometers work, and how obtain data from them
  • How low-cost GPS receivers work, and the latest in low-cost real-time kinematic (RTK) GPS
  • How MEMS sensor data is integrated to achieve real-time attitude (pitch, roll, heading)
  • How MEMS sensor data and GPS data are integrated to achieve real-time inertial navigation systems (INS)

Course is designed for:

This course is especially valuable to engineers, scientists, project managers, and leaders who want to know how new low-cost positioning and navigation systems are created from new breeds of microcontrollers, MEMS sensors, and miniature GPS receivers.

Course Outline:

  1. Microcontrollers. Microcontrollers are the “brains” of low-cost position, navigation and timing (PNT) systems. State-of-the-art microcontrollers run extremely fast and use very little power. They often have wireless and multiple wired interfaces on-board. We will examine several microcontroller types, simple to more complex, and conduct a series of hands-on labs showcasing the capabilities of these amazing devices.


  1. Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Sensors. Miniature MEMS sensors are having a huge impact on how we sense movement and position. Accelerometers sense gravity and accelerations, gyroscopes sense movement about an axis, magnetometers sense direction relative to the earth’s magnetic field, and barometers sense pressure. We will learn how to operate all of these, and then conclude with a number of hands-on labs where we will understand how to utilize MEMS sensor data via our microcontrollers.


  1. Highly Accurate GPS. It used to cost tens of thousands of dollars or more to get survey-level (centimeter!) accuracy with GPS. Not any more! New GPS hardware offers a range of accuracies and technologies, and with increasing robustness and features. New real-time-kinematic (RTK) receivers even offer cm-level accuracy at very low cost. We will learn the latest with these low-cost receivers, and learn what’s needed to get the high accuracy and the challenges of using RTK.


  1. Integration of MEMS Sensors and GPS data. Raw MEMS sensor data is fascinating, but how do we get pitch, roll, yaw, and heading? How is accurate time associated with sensor data? What are the ways that attitude data can be combined with positioning data? We will discuss all this, and will conduct hands-on exercises where we see results in action.




  • Don Kelly, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert in navigation, target tracking, and optimal estimation. His firm, Agile Engineering, founded in 2008, provides engineering services to aerospace, agriculture, government, and other industries. Don has worked a wide variety of engineering projects including radar and optical tracking, inertial navigation systems, MEMS IMUs, GPS and real time kinematic positioning, real-time operating systems and microcontrollers, orbit and attitude determination, and flight controllers for UAVs.

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