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Video Altimeter and Obstruction Detector for an Aircraft

Video-based altimetric and obstructiondetection systems for aircraft have been partially developed. The hardware of a system of this type includes a downward-looking video camera, a video digitizer, a Global Positioning System receiver or other means of measuring the aircraft velocity relative to the ground, a gyroscopebased or other attitude-determination subsystem, and a computer running altimetric and/or obstruction-detection software.

From the digitized video data, the altimetric software computes the pixel velocity in an appropriate part of the video image and the corresponding angular relative motion of the ground within the field of view of the camera. Then by use of trigonometric relationships among the aircraft velocity, the attitude of the camera, the angular relative motion, and the altitude, the software computes the altitude. The obstruction-detection software performs somewhat similar calculations as part of a larger task in which it uses the pixel-velocity data from the entire video image to compute a depth map, which can be correlated with a terrain map, showing locations of potential obstructions. The depth map can be used as real-time hazard display and/or to update an obstruction database.

This work was done by Frank J. Delgado of Johnson Space Center and Michael F. Abernathy, Janis White, and William R. Dolson of Rapid Imaging Software, Inc. For further information, contact the JSC Innovation Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-24246-1/7-1