Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a phase two inertial navigation system-related contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory to continue improving geo-registration accuracy for positioning and pointing applications, even in GPS-denied conditions.
Geo-registration of data is critical for accurate interaction between systems, such as locating targets and handing off coordinates to another aircraft. Geo-registration of images involves pairing unreferenced images with the physical locations or exact coordinates of depicted items. This allows aircraft to create accurate maps by stitching together photos and correlating them with their world-based locations, which is useful for intelligence gathering and targeting.
In the first phase of the Maintain Accurate Geo-registration via Image-nav Compensation (MAGIC) program, Northrop Grumman integrated geo‑registration algorithms in a vision-aided inertial navigation system that can even operate in GPS-denied conditions. Having successfully demonstrated a prototype system in phase one, Northrop Grumman will flight-test the integrated system in phase two as well as incorporate additional improvements such as highly detailed 3-D map generation in the algorithm.
"Our positioning and geo-registration solution will help to precisely locate our own aircraft positions and target locations, particularly in challenging, high-threat environments where the adversary might be jamming GPS," said Charles Volk, vice president of Northrop Grumman's Advanced Navigation Systems business unit. "Additionally, this will increase the situational awareness of warfighters and help to keep them safer."
Partnered with Toyon Research Corporation, Northrop Grumman is building on its experience in vision-aided inertial navigation under past programs such as Collaborative Robust Integrated Sensor Positioning, which matched image features and processed visual motion estimations for precise navigation without relying on GPS.
The MAGIC program's objective is to develop and demonstrate advanced real-time geo-registration and navigation algorithms using a combination of cameras, an inertial measurement unit and GPS information (when available). The program aims to capitalize on recent advances in the availability of low-size, -weight, -power and -cost camera systems that make the inclusion of camera information in navigation and geo‑registration systems for airborne vehicles a significant opportunity.