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Monday, October 2, 2017

Navigating by the Stars Makes a Comeback

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Sailors have been using the stars to navigate the oceans for thousands of years. Now Draper’s Skymark™ applies the same principle to space. “Landing a spaceship 32 million miles away on Mars is like driving a car blindfolded at a hundred mph, maneuvering into a six-foot-wide alley and parking, all without the benefit of GPS,” said Peter Lewis, Air Warfare & ISR Programs Lead at Draper. Lewis and his colleagues applied the previously developed Skymark technique to correct an emerging problem common to inertial navigation systems when access to GPS is denied: they tend to drift and lose accuracy over time, making them inadequate on their own for long-distance navigation. Skymark provides a system position fix through a unique combination of advanced optics, sensors and algorithms to triangulate off of known positions of stars and satellites. Noted Draper’s Bill Borgia, Mission Systems Director, “The result is accuracy better than 15 meters, and direction-finding with or without the availability of GPS, all in a package that works equally well for any navigating platform, including sea-level applications.” Skymark is one of the new technologies featured at Draper’s Engineering Possibilities 2017 technology showcase. Learn more about EP17

Skymark is a new kind of navigation technique that can help ships at sea and space ships find their way by tracking stars and satellites. (Credit: Peter Michaud, Gemini Observatory.)
Capabilities Used
Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT)

Draper develops novel PN&T solutions by combining precision instrumentation, advanced hardware technology, comprehensive algorithm and software development skills, and unique infrastructure and test resources to deploy system solutions. The scope of these efforts generally focuses on guidance, navigation, and control GN&C-related needs, ranging from highly accurate, inertial solutions for (ICBMs) and inertial/stellar solutions for SLBMs, to integrated Inertial Navigation System(INS)/GPS solutions for gun-fired munitions, to multisensor configurations for soldier navigation in GPS-challenged environments. Emerging technologies under development that leverage and advance commercial technology offerings include celestial navigation (compact star cameras), inertial navigation (MEMS, cold atom sensors), precision time transfer (precision optics, chip-scale atomic clocks) and vision-based navigation (cell phone cameras, combinatorial signal processing algorithms).

Precision Instrumentation

Draper develops precision instrumentation systems that exceed the state-of-the-art in key parameters (input range, accuracy, stability, bandwidth, ruggedness, etc.) that are designed specifically to operate in our sponsor’s most challenging environments (high shock, high temperature, radiation, etc.).  As a recognized leader in the development and application of precision instrumentation solutions for platforms ranging from missiles to people to micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Draper finds or develops state-of-the-art components (gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers, precision clocks, optical systems, etc.) that meet the demanding size, weight, power and cost needs of our sponsors and applies extensive system design capabilities consisting of modeling, mechanical and electrical design, packaging and development-level testing to realize instrumentation solutions that meet these critical and demanding needs.

Fault-Tolerant Systems

Draper has developed mission-critical fault-tolerant systems for more than four decades. These systems are deployed in space, air, and undersea platforms that require extremely high reliability to accomplish challenging missions. These solutions incorporate robust hardware and software partitioning to achieve fault detection, identification and reconfiguration. Physical redundancy or multiple, identical designs protect against random hardware failures and employ rigor in evaluating differences in computed results to achieve exact consensus, even in the presence of faults. The latest designs leverage cost-effective, multicore commercial processors to implement software-based redundancy management systems in compact single-board layouts that perform the key timing, communication, synchronization and voting algorithm functions needed to maintain seamless operation after one, two or three arbitrary faults of individual components.

Image & Data Analytics

Draper combines specific domain expertise and knowledge of how to apply the latest analytics techniques to extract meaningful information from raw data to better understand complex, dynamic processes. Our system design approach encompasses effective organization and processing of large data sets, automated analysis using algorithms and exploitation of results. To facilitate user interaction with these processed data sets, Draper applies advanced techniques to automate understanding and correlation of patterns in the data. Draper’s expertise encompasses machine learning (including deep learning), information fusion from diverse and heterogeneous data sources, optimized coupling of data acquisition and analysis and novel methods for analysis of imagery and video data.

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