PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (May 19, 2016)--Picatinny Arsenal engineers are among a group of researchers developing image navigation that would be used for precision guidance of munitions even when GPS is not available. The Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, is leading the development of image-navigation techniques for precision-guided munitions.

With image navigation, a target can be identified on any type of digital map, which along with its metadata, can be loaded into the munition-guidance processor.

"This enables the munition to fly its trajectory and then, once it enters the terminal basket, it 'opens its eyes' and uses the onboard imager, optics and processing geo-register to determine its position in space," said Christopher Stout, ARDEC project officer for Affordable Precision Technologies.

Other partners involved in the research are from Draper Labs, Army Research Laboratory, Air Force Research Laboratory and the Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center. Using the reference image, along with the image the munition sees, the munition can determine where it is and what course corrections are needed to precisely guide it to the desired aim point.

"This technology has the potential to be a game-changer for how precision munitions are employed in various contested environments on the future battlefield," said Stout. "The key development areas for this technology center is robustness and affordability," continued Stout.

FUTURE CAPABILITIES

The developing technology is designed to mitigate the current reliance on GPS for precision munitions and achieve the potential to transition to future increments of Excalibur, High Explosive Guided Mortar, or HEGM, and other future precision munitions.

Ensuring the survivability of cameras and optics under the "high G" shock of gun shock launch is being done by using ARDEC's modeling and simulation capabilities, along with Soft Recovery High G Test facilities.

During gun launch components are subjected to acceleration loads which are up to 15,000 times that of gravity, which in turn induces extreme stresses on components. For instance, a 1-pound item at 15,000 Gs will essentially act as if it now weighs 15,000 pounds. New physics-based imagery simulation environments are being developed in order to adequately evaluate the robustness of image navigation.

"Being able to model various terrains and spectral responses is a challenge, especially when needing to manipulate the scenery in real-time for indirect fire trajectories," said Stout.

ARDEC and Draper Labs are working closely to develop this simulation environment capable of virtually assessing system performance across all terrain and weather scenarios.

Another key aspect of the simulation development is its open architecture, which enables it to implement different projectile types, image processing or guidance algorithms into the simulation environment without the need to rebuild the environment for each application. The focus is now on subsystem development with end-to-end demonstration of the capability scheduled for fiscal year 2018.

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The U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.