A report discusses a computer vision algorithm for position estimation to enable precision landing during planetary descent. The Descent Image Motion Estimation System for the Mars Exploration Rovers has been used as a starting point for creating code for precision, terrain-relative navigation during planetary landing. The algorithm is designed to be general because it handles images taken at different scales and resolutions relative to the map, and can produce mapped landmark matches for any planetary terrain of sufficient texture. These matches provide a measurement of horizontal position relative to a known landing site specified on the surface map. Multiple mapped landmarks generated per image allow for automatic detection and elimination of bad matches. Attitude and position can be generated from each image; this image-based attitude measurement can be used by the onboard navigation filter to improve the attitude estimate, which will improve the position estimates.

FFT Map-Matching Concept.
The algorithm uses normalized correlation of grayscale images, producing precise, sub-pixel images. The algorithm has been broken into two sub- algorithms: (1) FFT Map Matching (see figure), which matches a single large template by correlation in the frequency domain, and (2) Mapped Landmark Refinement, which matches many small templates by correlation in the spatial domain. Each relies on feature selection, the homography transform, and 3D image correlation. The algorithm is implemented in C++ and is rated at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4.

This work was done by Andrew Johnson, Adnan Ansar, and Larry Matthies of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-44463.