This paper presents a novel Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Avionics Based Integrity Augmentation (ABIA) system architecture suitable for civil and military air platforms, including Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Taking the move from previous research on high-accuracy Differential GNSS (DGNSS) systems design, integration and experimental flight test activities conducted at the Italian Air Force Flight Test Centre (CSV-RSV), our research focused on the development of a novel approach to the problem of GNSS ABIA for mission- and safety-critical air vehicle applications and for multi-sensor avionics architectures based on GNSS. Detailed mathematical models were developed to describe the main causes of GNSS signal outages and degradation in flight, namely: antenna obscuration, multipath, fading due to adverse geometry and Doppler shift. Adopting these models in association with suitable integrity thresholds and guidance algorithms, the ABIA system is able to generate integrity cautions (predictive flags) and warnings (reactive flags), as well as providing steering information to the pilot and electronic commands to the aircraft/UAS flight control systems. These features allow real-time avoidance of safety-critical flight conditions and fast recovery of the required navigation performance in case of GNSS data losses. In other words, this novel ABIA system addresses all three cornerstones of GNSS integrity augmentation in mission- and safety-critical applications: prediction (caution flags), reaction (warning flags) and correction (alternate flight path computation).
The availability of powerful eye-safe laser sources and the recent advancements in electro-optical and mechanical beam-steering components have allowed laser-based Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) to become a promising technology for obstacle warning and avoidance in a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft applications. LIDAR outstanding angular resolution and accuracy characteristics are coupled to its good detection performance in a wide range of incidence angles and weather conditions, providing an ideal obstacle avoidance solution, which is especially attractive in low-level flying platforms such as helicopters and small-to-medium size Unmanned Aircraft (UA). The Laser Obstacle Avoidance Marconi (LOAM) system is one of such systems, which was jointly developed and tested by SELEX-ES and the Italian Air Force Research and Flight Test Centre. The system was originally conceived for military rotorcraft platforms and, in this paper, we briefly review the previous work and discuss in more details some of the key development activities required for integration of LOAM on UA platforms. The main hardware and software design features of this LOAM variant are presented, including a brief description of the system interfaces and sensor characteristics, together with the system performance models and data processing algorithms for obstacle detection, classification and avoidance. In particular, the paper focuses on the algorithm proposed for optimal avoidance trajectory generation in UA applications.
Two multisensor system architectures for navigation and guidance of small Unmanned Aircraft (UA) are presented and compared. The main objective of our research is to design a compact, light and relatively inexpensive system capable of providing the required navigation performance in all phases of flight of small UA, with a special focus on precision approach and landing, where Vision Based Navigation (VBN) techniques can be fully exploited in a multisensor integrated architecture. Various existing techniques for VBN are compared and the Appearance-Based Navigation (ABN) approach is selected for implementation. Feature extraction and optical flow techniques are employed to estimate flight parameters such as roll angle, pitch angle, deviation from the runway centreline and body rates. Additionally, we address the possible synergies of VBN, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and MEMS-IMU (Micro-Electromechanical System Inertial Measurement Unit) sensors, and the use of Aircraft Dynamics Model (ADM) to provide additional information suitable to compensate for the shortcomings of VBN and MEMS-IMU sensors in high-dynamics attitude determination tasks. An Extended Kalman Filter (EKF) is developed to fuse the information provided by the different sensors and to provide estimates of position, velocity and attitude of the UA platform in real-time. The key mathematical models describing the two architectures i.e., VBN-IMU-GNSS (VIG) system and VIGADM (VIGA) system are introduced. The first architecture uses VBN and GNSS to augment the MEMS-IMU. The second mode also includes the ADM to provide augmentation of the attitude channel. Simulation of these two modes is carried out and the performances of the two schemes are compared in a small UA integration scheme (i.e., AEROSONDE UA platform) exploring a representative cross-section of this UA operational flight envelope, including high dynamics manoeuvres and CAT-I to CAT-III precision approach tasks. Simulation of the first system architecture (i.e., VIG system) shows that the integrated system can reach position, velocity and attitude accuracies compatible with the Required Navigation Performance (RNP) requirements. Simulation of the VIGA system also shows promising results since the achieved attitude accuracy is higher using the VBN-IMU-ADM than using VBN-IMU only. A comparison of VIG and VIGA system is also performed and it shows that the position and attitude accuracy of the proposed VIG and VIGA systems are both compatible with the RNP specified in the various UA flight phases, including precision approach down to CAT-II.