PSSEARCH provides predictive sea state estimation, coupled with closedloop feedback control for automated ride control. It enables a manned or unmanned watercraft to determine the 3D map and sea state conditions in its vicinity in real time. Adaptive path-planning/ replanning software and a control surface management system will then use this information to choose the best settings and heading relative to the seas for the watercraft.

PSSEARCH looks ahead and anticipates potential impact of waves on the boat and is used in a tight control loop to adjust trim tabs, course, and throttle settings. The software uses sensory inputs including IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), stereo, radar, etc. to determine the sea state and wave conditions (wave height, frequency, wave direction) in the vicinity of a rapidly moving boat. This information can then be used to plot a “safe” path through the oncoming waves.

The main issues in determining a safe path for sea surface navigation are: (1) deriving a 3D map of the surrounding environment, (2) extracting hazards and sea state surface state from the imaging sensors/map, and (3) planning a path and control surface settings that avoid the hazards, accomplish the mission navigation goals, and mitigate crew injuries from excessive heave, pitch, and roll accelerations while taking into account the dynamics of the sea surface state. The first part is solved using a wide baseline stereo system, where 3D structure is determined from two calibrated pairs of visual imagers.

Once the 3D map is derived, anything above the sea surface is classified as a potential hazard and a surface analysis gives a static snapshot of the waves. Dynamics of the wave features are obtained from a frequency analysis of motion vectors derived from the orientation of the waves during a sequence of inputs. Fusion of the dynamic wave patterns with the 3D maps and the IMU outputs is used for efficient safe path planning.

This work was done by Terrance L. Huntsberger, Andrew B. Howard, Hrand Aghazarian, and Arturo L. Rankin of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Innovative Technology Assets Management
Mail Stop 202-233
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Predictive Sea State Estimation for Automated Ride Control and Handling — PSSEARCH

(reference NPO-47533) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

Don't have an account? Sign up here.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.