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LIDAR Obstacle Warning and Avoidance System for Unmanned Aircraft

Authors: Roberto Sabatini, Alessandro Gardi, Mark A. Richardson

Abstract:

The availability of powerful eye-safe laser sources and the recent advancements in electro-optical and mechanical beam-steering components have allowed laser-based Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) to become a promising technology for obstacle warning and avoidance in a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft applications. LIDAR outstanding angular resolution and accuracy characteristics are coupled to its good detection performance in a wide range of incidence angles and weather conditions, providing an ideal obstacle avoidance solution, which is especially attractive in low-level flying platforms such as helicopters and small-to-medium size Unmanned Aircraft (UA). The Laser Obstacle Avoidance Marconi (LOAM) system is one of such systems, which was jointly developed and tested by SELEX-ES and the Italian Air Force Research and Flight Test Centre. The system was originally conceived for military rotorcraft platforms and, in this paper, we briefly review the previous work and discuss in more details some of the key development activities required for integration of LOAM on UA platforms. The main hardware and software design features of this LOAM variant are presented, including a brief description of the system interfaces and sensor characteristics, together with the system performance models and data processing algorithms for obstacle detection, classification and avoidance. In particular, the paper focuses on the algorithm proposed for optimal avoidance trajectory generation in UA applications.

Keywords: Lidar, sense and avoid, Unmanned Aircraft, obstacle avoidance, obstacle detection, Low-Level Flight, Nap-of-the-Earth Flight, Near Infra-Red, Obstacle Warning System, Trajectory Optimisation

Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1091998

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