3 May 2007 Processing 3D flash LADAR point-clouds in real-time for flight applications
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Abstract
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has demonstrated real-time processing of 3D imaging LADAR point-cloud data to produce the industry's first time-of-flight (TOF) 3D video capability. This capability is uniquely suited to the rigorous demands of space and airborne flight applications and holds great promise in the area of autonomous navigation. It will provide long-range, three dimensional video information to autonomous flight software or pilots for immediate use in rendezvous and docking, proximity operations, landing, surface vision systems, and automatic target recognition and tracking. This is enabled by our new generation of FPGA based "pixel-tube" processors, coprocessors and their associated algorithms which have led to a number of advancements in high-speed wavefront processing along with additional advances in dynamic camera control, and space laser designs based on Ball's CALIPSO LIDAR. This evolution in LADAR is made possible by moving the mechanical complexity required for a scanning system into the electronics, where production, integration, testing and life-cycle costs can be significantly reduced. This technique requires a state of the art TOF read-out integrated circuit (ROIC) attached to a sensor array to collect high resolution temporal data, which is then processed through FPGAs. The number of calculations required to process the data is greatly reduced thanks to the fact that all points are captured at the same time and thus correlated. This correlation allows extremely efficient FPGA processing. This capability has been demonstrated in prototype form at both Marshal Space Flight Center and Langley Research Center on targets that represent docking and landing scenarios. This report outlines many aspects of this work as well as aspects of our recent testing at Marshall's Flight Robotics Laboratory.
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R. Craig, I. Gravseth, R. P. Earhart, J. Bladt, S. Barnhill, L. Ruppert, C. Centamore, "Processing 3D flash LADAR point-clouds in real-time for flight applications", Proc. SPIE 6555, Sensors and Systems for Space Applications, 65550D (3 May 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.720143; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.720143
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