Optical
Tracking
Imaging/Visions Systems


Contact Information

Roger Lopez
Manager
Autonomous Systems & Controls
(210) 522-3832
rlopez@swri.org

Fully autonomous flight is preferred over remote piloting in many cases because it reduces training costs and accidents. In addition, autonomous landings are required on many unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems due to factors such as limited landing area. Landing requires accurate relative position sensing, better than differential global positioning system (GPS); radar tracking and carrier phase GPS are often used.

Video Optical Tracking

Video optical tracking can be used to track operator-designated targets or automatically acquire known objects. With this, it should be possible to land a UAV with optical tracking information instead of other methods, achieving similar touch down point accuracy at a lower system cost and smaller and lighter equipment on the UAV.

Auto-land flight controls that can be used with optical tracking were developed and tested on a software-in-loop simulator. Typical low-cost charge couple device (CCD) cameras were used, for both day and night landings. Once the software-in-loop simulations were successfully completed, hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulations were conducted.

The HIL simulations were completed successfully. Fifteen seconds of tracking the marker before touchdown (1500 ft. at 60 knots) was required at 10 frames per second using large (10' x 20'), low-cost markers and low-cost cameras.

Related Terminology

optical tracking  •  autonomous flight  •  remote piloting  •  unmanned aerial vehicle  •  video optical tracking  •  touch down point accuracy  •  auto-land flight control  •  software-in-the-loop  •  aerial simulation

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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 10 technical divisions.

04/15/14