Northrop Grumman has been awarded a follow-on contract to develop means of geo-registration to enable aircraft navigation when GPS isn't available or has been jammed.
The contract, from the Air Force Research Laboratory, is for the third phase of the Maintain Accurate Geo-registration via Image-nav Compensation project. In the first two phases, Northrop Grumman integrated geo-registration algorithms into a vision-aided inertial navigation system, and prepared a prototype system for flight tests, according to a company announcement. The third phase of Magic "will continue to develop capabilities for incorporating 3-D maps, improving performance and quantifying uncertainties associated with image-based navigation in phase three, as well as conduct additional test flights to prove real-time performance in realistic environments," Northrop Grumman said.
Geo-registration of images pairs unreferenced images with their physical locations or exact coordinates. "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," said Northrop Grumman. MAGIC's goal is to create advanced navigation algorithms using a combination of cameras, an inertial measurement unit and any available GPS information.
MAGIC is capitalizing on recent advances in size, weight, power and cost of cameras suitable for aircraft. Partnered with Toyon Research Corp., Northrop Grumman is building on its past vision-aided inertial navigation programs such as the Collaborative Robust Integrated Sensor Positioning project, which matched image features with visual motion estimations.
"We continue to refine our new positioning and geo-registration solution to offer greater situational awareness to warfighters, especially in GPS-denied situations," said Charles Volk, vice president of Northrop Grumman's, Advanced Navigation Systems division.