Equip Your Home Drone Build With Super-Accurate GPS Thanks To The Piksi On Kickstarter

Most GPS is a relatively imprecise tool, honing in on your location to within around a few meters, but new Kickstarter project Piksi aims to provide accuracy within a single centimeter, via a new GPS receiver that uses Real Time Kinetics (RTK) it’s trying to fund via Kicksarter. The Piksi combines open source software and hardware to give UAV hobbyists and others access to the advanced RTK tech at a fraction of the price you’d normally find.

The price still isn’t exactly bargain basement at $500 for one of the first production devices, and that gets you only one Piksi unit; because of how RTK works, you’ll need two to get the super-accurate, 1-centimeter resolution location tracking working, which means the $900 level is where you’ll have to start if you’re after the hyper-specific positioning. Compared to what else is out there, however, that’s still very affordable indeed.

And the Piksi isn’t just for those building a home drone fleet; it could come in handy for rocketry hobbyists, aerial photography geotagging, building autonomous robot lawnmowers and more. As with most open source hardware aimed at the DIY engineering community, the limits of how Piksi can be used basically come to down to an individual’s imagination.

The specific details of how RTK works to provide such heightened accuracy are extremely geeky, but the team behind PIksi does a good job of providing an explanation over on their project page, which I wouldn’t do justice by trying to repeat here. Suffice it to say, they use science, and that science is very smart.

PIksi is the product of Swift Navigation, a San Francisco-based startup that consists of Colin Beighley and Fergus Noble, two engineers who previously developed a commercial RTK GPS system for a company called Joby Energy. Noble has an MSc in Physics from the University of Cambridge, and Beighley has a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Cruz. The two have been working with GPS or the past few years, but founded Swift Navigation in 2012 to turn that work into their own company.

The Piksi has already exceeded its $14,000 goal, so it’s getting made whether you back it or not (in time for a September 2013 delivery, too), but if you’re a backyard hardware hacker who craves extreme precision, there’s still time to get on board.