Reconfigurable Sensor Timing and Navigation System for UAVs
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSensors. 2018, 18 1884-1891. 10.3390/s18082468
As the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for industrial use increases, so are the demands for highly accurate navigation solutions, and with the high dynamics that UAVs offer, the accuracy of a measurement does not only depend on the value of the measurement, but also the accuracy of the associated timestamp. Sensor timing using dedicated hardware is the de-facto method to achieve optimal sensor performance, but the solutions available today have limited flexibility and requires much effort when changing sensors. This article presents requirements and suggestions for a highly accurate, reconfigurable sensor timing system that simplifies integration of sensor systems and navigation systems for UAVs. Both typical avionics sensors, like GNSS receivers and IMUs, and more complex sensors, such as cameras, are supported. To verify the design, an implementation named the SenTiBoard was created, along with a software support package and a baseline sensor-suite. With the solution presented in this paper we get a measurement resolution of 10 nanoseconds and we can transfer up to 7.6 megabytes per second. If the sensor suite includes a GNSS receiver with a pulse-per-second (PPS) reference, the sensor measurements can be related to an absolute time reference (UTC) with a clock drift of 1.9 microseconds per second RMS. An experiment was carried out, using a Mini Cruiser fixed-wing UAV, where errors in georeferencing infrared images were reduced with a factor of 4 when compared to a software synchronization method.