Tech Briefs

ULTRA: Underwater Localization for Transit and Reconnaissance Autonomy

This software addresses the issue of underwater localization of unmanned vehicles and the inherent drift in their onboard sensors. The software gives a 2 to 3 factor of improvement over the state-of-the-art underwater localization algorithms.

The software determines the localization (position, heading) of an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) in environments where there is no GPS signal. It accomplishes this using only the commanded position, onboard gyros/accelerometers, and the bathymetry of the bottom provided by an onboard sonar system. The software does not rely on an onboard bathymetry dataset, but instead incrementally determines the position of the AUV while mapping the bottom.

In order to enable long-distance underwater navigation by AUVs, a localization method called ULTRA uses registration of the bathymetry data products produced by the onboard forward-looking sonar system for hazard avoidance during a transit to derive the motion and pose of the AUV in order to correct the DR (dead reckoning) estimates. The registration algorithm uses iterative point matching (IPM) combined with surface interpolation of the Iterative Closest Point (ICP) algorithm. This method was used previously at JPL for onboard unmanned ground vehicle localization, and has been optimized for efficient computational and memory use.

This work was done by Terrance L. Huntsberger of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Dan Broderick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . NPO-48559

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

ULTRA: Underwater Localization for Transit and Reconnaissance Autonomy (reference NPO-48559) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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