image of NOMAD logo: Negative Obstacle Marking & Detection–Funded by SwRI® Internal Research

computer image of NOMAD sensor


Through internally funded research, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is investigating non-traditional sensing options for detecting negative obstacles that will extend local and global perception capabilities and enable extended operation of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs).


The Negative Obstacle Marking & Detection (NOMAD) project aims to significantly increase the range for detecting negative obstacles by unmanned, driverless ground vehicles. Extended detection is accomplished by integrating sensory information from an elevated perspective. This perspective can be provided by deployable sensors or small unmanned air assets. NOMAD results have shown that this enhanced perspective increases identification range, enabling better path-planning performance and higher operational speeds.

illustration of NOMAD sensor platform for a driverless vehicle

Key Elements of the NOMAD Project

  • Design and fabrication of elevated perspective hardware
  • Development of LIDAR-based algorithms for feature detection
  • Development of electro-optical (EO)-based algorithms for feature detection
  • Integration of LIDAR/EO features for robust detection


NOMAD algorithms and experimentation hardware have been integrated onto a HMMWV platform and tested at SwRI’s Negative Obstacle Test Area. Experiments have shown the ability to identify negative obstacles beyond 30 meters during driverless vehicle operation.

Christopher Mentzer, Manager, (210) 522-4240,