Light-weight, Low-Cost, Stellar-Aided Inertial Navigation System for Unmanned Aerial Systems
Microcosm will leverage previous Phase II SBIR work on a Navy stellar-aided inertial navigation system (SAINS), along with extensive ongoing experience in developing new star sensors for spacecraft for both the Air Force and NASA, to develop a low-cost, light-weight, low power SAINS for UAS applications. This star sensor will provide orientation and position information as a backup for GPS outages and reduced INS drift and enhanced overall INS capability. Traditional sensors that provide the SAINS function are operationally complex, high-mass, high-power, expensive systems that are difficult to maintain and calibrate. The SAINS star sensor proposed here is a small, strapdown sensor capable of detecting stars in daylight, employing a new generation of focal plane arrays (FPAs) and appropriate filtering techniques. The full sensor will have a mass of 3-7 kg, power<10 W, and a recurring cost target of $200K-$300K. In Phase I, Microcosm will develop the initial SAINS design, scaling the sensor significantly down in size from the larger sea-level-based Navy version. The best available FPAs will be selected with the appropriate spectral sensitivity to allow daytime star detection. In Phase II, a prototype SAINS will be built and delivered for UAS testing. BENEFIT: The proposed sensor will be immediately applicable to any UAS mission, from larger to smaller platforms. It can also be adopted by strategic piloted military aircraft that have traditionally relied on older, much more expensive and complex SAINS devices. Once performance is proven on the UAS platforms, it is likely that companies building piloted aircraft will be more willing to accept the new SAINS. Additionally, commercial aircraft could make use of this device as a GPS backup navigation instrument, which will be much more affordable than traditional SAINS devices.
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