Iowa Patent of the Month – September 2020

Collins Aerospace has received the patent for its wearable personal navigation system. The tech combines LIDAR technology, laser emitters and infrared imagers to navigate or track paths, without the need for clear vision or GPS.

Personal navigation systems can be incredibly helpful, say for firefighters or soldiers away from their vehicles and in heavy smoke or fog. But, almost all devices use GPS, and in both of these examples, people are often in locations where GPS signals are obstructed or unavailable. And further, they’re often out for hours at a time, so things like pedometers are not always accurate. 

So, Iowa-based Collins Aerospace developed a dead-reckoning system with LIDAR technology, a method for measuring distances (ranging) by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths can then be used to make representations, or in this case take infrared images. 

In this device, the laser emitter heats points at an initial location (e.g. where the user leaves their vehicle). The heated points are then ranged by the LIDAR assembly (for elevation and range). The thermal/infrared imagers capture images of the heated points from the perspective of the initial location. When the user moves to another location, the thermal imagers again capture images of the heated spots.

Additionally, the system has inertial sensors (e.g. accelerometers and gyrometers) for determining an attitude or motion trend. The system has a microcontroller, which analyzes the attitude data and thermal images, to determine the changes in position of the heated points with respect to each captured image, and thereby determines a motion (e.g. distance and direction) of the user. 

The intention is to have this system wearable or attachable to a mobile device.

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